All-Ireland win was Hickey's highlight

 
 

James Hickey was lucky enough to enjoy many memorable days during his hurling career with Carlow but everything paled into insignificance compared to Mount Leinster Rangers’ All-Ireland Club IHC success in 2012.

The 31 year old bowed out on a high following the Kilkenny border club’s 1-13 to 1-11 over Middletown Na Fianna of Armagh at Croke Park in February of last year.


Mount Leinster Rangers - 2011 All-Ireland Club IHC champions

Hickey lined out at right half-back as the Carlow and Leinster champions came from five points down to pip their Orchard County opponents at the final whistle.

“It was an absolutely unbelievable achievement, you don’t even dream about winning All-Irelands growing up and playing with a Carlow club,” James recalled.

“It was the greatest day of my life to get to play in Croke Park with friends and school pals from Mount Leinster Rangers.”


James in action in the All-Irleand Club IHC final

The All-Ireland victory was the culmination of a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for Mount Leinster Rangers. Founded in 1988, James recalled how the club was once on the verge of extinction.

“At one stage the club looked like it might not survive but, after taking a lot of heavy beatings, we made the breakthrough in 2006.

“15 years ago the club seemed to be going no where fast but turned it around with success at minor and Under 21 level and that came from the hard work and dedication of the likes of Eddie and Mag Byrne (secretary) who leave no stone unturned.


James celebrates with his son Conor

“The right people came in and took over the reins and it was a special occasion. Tommy Mullally, brother of Richie and Paddy from Kilkenny, has been with us since ’06 and he is an inspirational figure in the club. He is way ahead of his time in terms of coaching.

“Then there’s the underage coaches who often don’t get the credit they deserve. They ensure the talent conveyor belt is kept running smoothly and their efforts are greatly appreciated.”

Eight months after savouring his sweetest victory on the hurling field, James had a bigger match when he married his wife Amy last October. The couple have a son Conor and live in Gowran in nearby Kilkenny, home of DJ Carey, Charlie Carter and Pat O’Neill.


James and Conor on county final day 2011 versus Myshall

One of Carlow’s most decorated hurlers of recent times, his medal collection boasts All-Ireland Club IHC, Leinster Club IHC, 5 Carlow SHC and 4 Kilkenny league souvenirs with the club plus 2 Christy Ring Cup medals with the Barrowsiders.

2009 was a blue riband year for the affable Hickey as he captained his club to county honours as well as winning a second successive Christy Ring Cup medal.

Individual awards also came his way in the form of selection of the Christy Ring All Star selection and Carlow’s ‘Hurler of the Year’ accolade.


James with his Best men and grooms men on his wedding day, also his team mates
from left to right. Willie Hickey, Myself, Denis Murphy, John Coady & Stephen Byrne

He inherited his passion for the small ball code from his father Pat who donned the county jersey with distinction while his brothers Andy and Willie have also made valuable contributions to the Mount Leinster Rangers success story.

His extended family are also vital cogs in the club machine. The four Coady brothers are first cousins as are Denis Murphy and David Greenan. Denis Murphy’s father Michael was the county team’s top scorer for many years back in the day.


James with his wife Amy on their wedding day

As regards, the current Carlow team and their chances of being competitive in the Allianz HL Division 1B, James – who is employed by generous Mount Leinster Rangers supporters Keenan’s of Borris - is optimistic despite the narrow opening round defeat at the hands of Wexford.

“Kevin Ryan is gone as manager and John Meyler has come in to replace him. Kevin, along with Gerry Fitzpatrick, brought the county on to the next level. We beat Wexford in 2010 in the league for the first time ever and lost by a point to Clare the following week. We were knocking on the door.

“Maintaining their Division 1B status should be the main priority and I have no doubt that, if Carlow show up on the day, they are capable of winning games and holding their place.
“It’s a tough group but it’s where you want to be, in the top 12 of the elite in the country. We were ranked 25th for long enough.”