Thursday, January 24, 2019

HE would say it wouldn’t he? When you ask Colm Bonnar what it means to him personally to lead Carlow to three major victories in two years, he gives the standard answer that nearly every manager would give.

“To tell you the truth it is not how I feel. It is all down to the players,” he replies.

Fair enough, that is true. But surely he must get a lot of pleasure in being part of one of the most successful eras in Carlow hurling?

The Carlow manager concedes he has enjoyed the journey from relative obscurity to playing against Dublin, Waterford and Galway in the national hurling league.

“Huge satisfaction,” he says, but then he focusses on the merits of the team.

“I have got such a good response from this group of players. Anything I have asked them to do they have always done more,” he says.

Beating Antrim was special in the 2017 Christy Ring Cup final. The following year Carlow completed a league and Joe McDonagh Cup double.

“Very few teams win. You will always lose more than you will ever win and we have had such a run in the last two years. We  have got to four finals and have won three. It has been a huge success story for them,” says Bonnar.

Note the word “them”. Bonnar is back where he is more at ease,  distributing kudos where they are deserved.

Nobody but nobody knows better than the Carlow manager what lies ahead. The step-up is massive but everyone in the squad wants to play at as high a level as they possibly can.

“The players want to enjoy it and this year we want to see how close we can get to teams we watch on television in the Leinster championship, the Munster championship and the round-robin.”

Bonnar stresses his players will enjoy the challenge and as important as the league is, the Leinster championship is on the Carlow horizon too.

“It is only in the sense we are going to a place where we want to play. It is going to be something hugely satisfying. Only one team can win the Liam MacCarthy. That is where we are at the moment. We are not being foolish in saying we can do that but we are long, long shots from staying up with the championship contenders.

“We are realistic but we have enough pride in ourselves to know we are not going out there to make up the numbers. We want to see where we are. We want to test ourselves and that is what we have been training for over the last couple of months. That is why we have been training for the last two years.”

Feisty words from the Carlow manager as Dublin comes first on Saturday.

“Anytime you go to Dublin it is a hell of a battle. It is a tough place to go which we saw when we  played them in the Walsh Cup. They beat the first tackle and then they go on a run, they overlap very quickly and have big men. Overall we will be well tested but we can play to our strengths as well.”

More fighting words. The manager and the players stand together.

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