UNLIKE the other clubs in Kildare who have represented the county in the Leinster Intermedaite Hurling Club Championship, Ardclough are not entering unchartered waters as not only have they been here before, they are the only Kildare team to have won this competition when they beat Raharney in 2006.
This is a fact that outstanding forward Martin Fitzgerald believes will stand to his side as they face recently crowned Kilkenny Intermediate Champions, St Patrick’s, Ballyragget at St Conleth’s Park on Saturday (throw in at 2pm).
“We are the only team in Kildare that has won a Leinster Championship in hurling and we have a huge pride in that. There are still six members of the 2006 winning team on our panel and I was on the sideline bringing in the water on that day. We all know how much it meant to the club and the celebrations were huge back then. We would love to emulate that next Saturday,” said Fitzgerald.
While many in the county ranked Ardclough as massive outsiders in the county final against Naas on the first Sunday in October, that mood did not permeate into the club according to Fitzgerald. They will be massive outsiders again on Saturday against the Kilkenny champions who won an All Ireland Junior title in the recent past.
“We had five or six fellas who had won county medals and Leinster medals, there was a lot of experience there and although we knew we would be up against it we didn’t feel we were big underdogs for the game, ”said Fitzgerald, who is having one of his best seasons in an Ardclough jersey.
Preparations have gone well for Saturday according to Fitzgerald with only a week taken off to celebrate the county final victory.
“The six lads who were there in 2006 know how hard it is to win Leinster. Celbridge have been there or thereabouts in the last few years and the margins are fine but we have trained hard for this one,” said Fitzgerald.
And he believes that his team wants more than a County title out of 2017.
“There’s a great attitude there, we’d love to be training for another week after next weekend. The pressure is off after the county final. We hadn’t won a county title in 11 years and we lost in 2015 so after the county final the lads have a bit of freedom now and they want to keep hurling for as long as they can.”
Ballyragget will be formidable opponents. They won the Kilkenny title after suffering final loses three years in a row. County star, Kevin Kelly, scored ten points in the county final. He is their free taker and any indiscipline will be punished by Kelly.
“They won an All Ireland Junior title in 2012 and they have been knocking on the door at intermediate level since then. We’ll be underdogs but we will go out and do the best for the club,” said Fitzgerald.
No one can ever accuse Ardclough of not giving of their best in any game and with a team backboned by the Fitzgerald’s, Martin and Paul, the Spain brothers, Robbie and Tony, Richie Hoban and captained by Paudie Ryan, then Ger Buggle’s charges will represent the county well in St Conleth’s Park which according to Fitzgerald, ‘has been kind to us down through the years’.
It won’t be easy but the bigger the task then the greater is the response from the Cloughs.
By Pat Costello