Rathgarogue Cushinstown still going strong
By Cian O'Connell
The sporting year has rolled into December with Rathgarogue Cushinstown still going strong.
Matthew Cody smiles when trying to make sense of it all because the journey hasn’t exactly been smooth in Wexford during the past decade.
Harrowing defeats were endured, setbacks suffered, but Rathgarogue Cushinstown have found a way into Saturday’s AIB Leinster Club Junior Football Final against Meath’s Clann na nGael at Pairc Tailteann.
“There is a serious buzz around the club at the minute,” Cody admits. “We only won the Junior B Championship last year and then won the Intermediate A as we call it in Wexford.
“The year before that we had lost a County Final to St Martin's second team. If you said to me then that two years later we'd be in a Leinster Junior Final I would have laughed at you. It has been an absolute rollercoaster, it has been brilliant.”
Championship wins, though, have injected hope and belief into Rathgorogue Cushinstown. “Exactly, we got momentum, we have a few good young lads who are after coming through and they are maturing a good bit,” Cody replies.
“We have lads that have been on the team a long time, but we have a reasonably young team. It is all coming together this year after a good few years of disappointment. We are starting to come together now, so hopefully there will be one more big day for us”.
Cody has been struck by how the triumphs in Wexford has led to increased numbers and interest in Gaelic Games once more.
“We'd come from a large area, but there is no actual village really,” Cody explains. “It is all rural families. The success in the last couple of years has really brought on the numbers.
“We managed to field three teams, some days, this year in football. It dwindles a bit as the year goes on, but we have two competitive teams in Intermediate A and Junior B. The momentum and success in recent years has really brought it on. The underage is flying now at the moment.”
At what level does the club compete in the juvenile ranks? “The underage now are starting to make inroads into the higher divisions,” Cody states.
“The majority of us playing now would have been in the lower divisions. We have two main cohorts of players, lads of my own age, who would have been mid to lower divisions growing up.
“Then the cohort behind us, maybe Under 21 age at the minute, they would have been mid to higher, the odd year in the higher divisions. We have always been a middle of the road type of a club, we have finally built some momentum to get out of the lower divisions.”
It has been a dramatic stint for Rathgorogue Cushinstown with Cody acknowledging that the recent football victories carry huge importance.
“Traditionally we'd be seen as a dual club,” Cody explains. “In the last decade it has probably been more of an emphasis on hurling, we are Intermediate in hurling.
“We have been second division in hurling and fourth division in football for most of my adult playing career. We are in the second division in both now which is ideal for us. We are absolutely delighted.
“We were in Junior B for around 12 years getting to quarter-finals, semi-finals, and finals, not being able to push over the line knowing we had more in us. It was so frustrating for many years. All the perseverance is finally showing through.”
Being afforded the chance to operate outside the environs of the Wexford Championships has also benefitted Rathgorogue Cushinstown enormously according to Cody.
“You can do all the research you want, you are playing clubs at home, neighbouring parishes, you know who is who, but when it comes to these games you are going in blind and you have to make changes,” Cody says.
“It is exciting. We were lucky we were at home in the quarter-final and semi-final, but we are away now. You bring a bit of a bandwagon, the support in the club has been something else.
“The Offaly crowd (Shannonbridge) brought a big crowd, we brought a good crowd, there was a roar and it was exciting on the field, you could feel the buzz.”
These are the occasions Rathagorogue Cushinstown craved to be involved in with the stakes piled high and a provincial title on the line.
“It is great,” Cody remarks. “Knowing it could be your last ever Leinster match means everyone is going full tilt the whole time.
“There is absolutely nothing being left on the field, it is bringing out the best in us. This is it, you might never play here again, it is do or die. It could be our last ever chance in Leinster, they don't come around that often so we want to make it count as best we can.”