Mount Leinster Rangers kindly allowed Ballyhale Shamrocks to move the first round Leinster clash between the two teams to Saturday December 4 following a request by the Kilkenny county champions.
It was an act of kindness that the Carlow powerhouses will almost certainly not get repatriated to them when the respective county champions face each other at Netwatch Cullen Park next month.
Mount Leinster Rangers manager Conor Phelan was under no illusions as to how difficult a challenge his side will have in front of them in December when the four-in-a-row Kilkenny county champions travel to Carlow GAA headquarters.
Speaking to Scoreline, Phelan said: “We want to be competitive and to match ourselves against the best teams in the country.
“Ballyhale Shamrocks have arguably been the best team in the country over the last decade so there is no bigger challenge. Hopefully our guys can rise to that challenge and really put in a performance that does us justice.”
Phelan has been limited in the amount of preparation he can do for the game with the vast majority of his panel involved in Mount Leinster Rangers’ run to the semi-finals of the Carlow SFC since the hurlers defeat of St. Mullins in September’s county final.
Most managers would portray an heir of frustration at a lack of access to his players for such a pivotal tie, but Phelan revealed that there is a culture of open dialogue between both management teams within the club.
“We work very closely with the football management, and we would encourage anyone that plays hurling to play with the football team too,” said Phelan.
“We’ve had six weeks of no hurling because of the football, but we have no issues with that at all because it’s great to be a dual club.”
Phelan has become somewhat accustomed to success with Mount Leinster Rangers since he took charge of the Carlow side.
He is hoping that the achievements of the team in the Carlow SHC can be replicated on the Leinster stage this season as provincial championships return following their suspension last season.
“We didn’t get an opportunity to go into Leinster last year, but we do get that chance this year which is great for everyone. We’re steeped in tradition, and everyone involved in the club is so passionate about hurling.
“It would be exciting for the whole area if we could get a run similar to that of 2014 (when they reached the All-Ireland final) but we can only take it one game at a time.”
He also gave a brief insight into what to expect from his side as they do battle with the 2019 and 2020 All-Ireland champions.
“For us it’s about staying in the game for as long as we can. We know that they have an experienced and talented panel, and they can do damage to any team at any time.
“We feel that if we remain competitive for as long as we can in the game, we can take it in stages and see how it pans out.”
Phelan admitted that his team will need an element of luck if they are to overcome James O’Connor’s raging hot favourites.
“We’ll need everything to go our way in the game. We have to maintain the same level as we did in the county final and hope that they miss a few chances.
“We want to play with some freedom and really back ourselves. It’s a great opportunity and a great occasion to showcase our talents in what will be a high-profile game.”
Mount Leinster Rangers take on Ballyhale Shamrocks in the Leinster SHC quarter-final at Netwatch Cullen Park at 1pm on Saturday December 4 with live commentary on KCLR.