Time to ‘un-Laois’: Suckler farmer hurling captain’s sensational team win

When Paddy Purcell, captain of the Laois hurling team that defeated Dublin in the preliminary All-Ireland quarter final last weekend, returned to work after huge revelry, his Tipperary colleagues were brimful of congratulations.

“They also reminded me that we had our day in the sun but really they were delighted for us,” laughed Paddy, who works in Arrabawn Co-Op in Nenagh.

Laois will take on Tipperary in the All-Ireland hurling quarter final in Croke Park this Sunday. The O’Moore county’s sensational win against Dublin was dubbed one of the most extraordinary results in the last 30 years of the hurling championship.

For Paddy who is a dairy advisor with Arrabawn as well as sustainability advisor for the Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme (ASSAP), while also helping out on the family’s small suckler farm at weekends, it meant all the juggling has been worth it.

“When I finish in Arrabawn at 5:30pm, my mother has dinner ready for me and I head straight to training. Currently, we’re only training three days a week but in winter, it could be five,” said Paddy, an agricultural science graduate of UCD who did a master’s degree in sustainability also at UCD.

“I’m very busy but very lucky with the manager in Arrabawn who is a fierce hurling man. It’s no problem if I have to leave for training or anywhere else,” said the Errill native.

Farming

His dad, Michael, is at the helm on the 35 suckler cow farm during the week. He relishes the chance to roll up his sleeves at weekends. “When I finished college, I worked on a neighbour, Tomas Creagh’s farm for a year. I love farming,” he said.

Facing up to the might of Tipperary, Paddy said Laois is under no illusion about the difficulty of the task.

“They’re one of the best teams in the country but we’re going to give it a go. We’re enjoying the experience, loving every moment of it.”

Lifting the Joe McDonagh Cup in Croke Park with Paddy was fellow Rathdowney/Erill clubman, former All-Ireland referee and county kitman, Pat Delaney. Pat who has given a lifetime of service to hurling in the county was thrilled to share the moment.

“He is a legend in the dressing room and has done everything for us. He is like a father figure to us,” said the Laois captain.

Great scores

Pat who is also a suckler farmer said being in the All-Ireland hurling quarter final is a massive achievement.

“You might have dreamed about it years ago but we weren’t going too well for the past couple of years. This year has been going well. They won all their games in the Joe McDonagh Cup, with great scores.

Image source: Paul Dargan

“Ever since former Kilkenny hurling star Eddie Brennan came in, they have played a lovely brand of hurling.”

Pat said that while he was hopeful of success, he didn’t take anything for granted. “You can never be too cocky about any game. Dublin probably was a little over confident but it doesn’t work that way. You have to treat every team with respect or things can backfire.”

Pat said it was a very thoughtful gesture to ask him to lift the cup, adding that the team comprises “a great bunch of lads with a real sense of humour”.

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