By Kieran Murphy
JOHN Doran came into the St Mullins senior team back in 2005. He played his first county final in 2006, the year Mount Leinster Rangers clinched a first ever crown with a 0-17 to 2-8 win.
Sean Murphy’s ‘Hand of God’ goal in the final minutes of the 2007 final denied St Mullins once again. It wasn’t until 2010 that Doran finally got his hands on a coveted county senior hurling medal when Rangers were beaten by 1-12 to 0-11.
“I think to get that one was more of a relief than anything,” says John.
He had to wait four more years for his next medal. That particular victory for St Mullins was a pretty remarkable achievement. The previous year (2013) Rangers had humiliated them when sweeping their rivals aside by a 1-20 to 0-11 margin. It didn’t matter that the Carlow champions went on to win a Leinster senior hurling title. To lose by 12 points without hardly putting up a fight cut to the bone.
“It hurt us. That winter you would feel embarrassed walking into local pubs,” says John.
Things were changing in the club. A new set of players were looking for senior starts. They beat Naomh Eoin by 0-9 to 0-7 in a close and uninspiring encounter in 2014.
“It was great to get that one, especially after the year before. It was nearly a new team from 2010 with Mouse (Marty Kavanagh), James (Doyle), Gary (Bennett), Paul (Doyle).These lads were all after breaking into the team so it was different.”
It is hard to see how St Mullins turned 2013 around so quickly. Doran says they were urged to put the memory behind them by a new manager.
“That year Anthony McCormack came in. In fairness, he never really talked about the match. Everything was a fresh start. The previous year was gone. In the back of our minds the hurt was still there but he came in with a fresh approach,” recalls John.
St Mullins went on to win three consecutive titles but in 2017 Rangers were back on top for two years. The tide turned again this year and that was particularly sweet for Doran.
“Delighted. This year to get a win was great. Especially when at the start of the year lads who had hurled with us for a long time like Darren Whelan, John Murphy and John Walsh were gone. Paudie Kehoe was in Dubai. They are all very good hurlers. It was going to be hard to replace them.”
Doran need not have worried. He can see now what happened as new faces came into the squad and pushed things on.
“All the young lads and even lads who are not starting, they came in and refreshed the whole thing. You have to give them great credit,” agrees Doran who accepts narrow wins in four games in a row in Carlow and Leinster has created a huge inner confidence in the squad.
“There is a mental strength there after winning those tight games. If there is only a point in it, there is a belief we can come back and still get a winner,” says Doran.
Playing against Ballyhale Shamrocks is the ultimate test for St Mullins now. The Leinster kingpins beat Ballyboden St Enda’s by 2-21 to 0-11 at the same stage last year and went on to account for Galway side St Thomas by 2-28 to 2-11 in the All-Ireland final.
“Last year and this year, they really go out and bury teams. They have no weak point on their team. From one to 15 as well as the subs who come in. They are a team you would look up to,” emphasises Doran.