Win with the club as sweet as any race for Wexford horse-trainer Nolan
Paul Nolan has had many great wins as a horse-trainer but sweet and all as they were, he says that very few of them can compare to the win that he had with his GAA club on Saturday night.
That was as sweet as it gets.
The Wexford man has been involved with the Davidstown Courtnacuddy hurlers for the last few years and from the very start, the aim was a simple one.
They've experienced the struggles, and the trials and the tribulations along the way - every rural club knows the kind only too well - but through them all, the thoughts and dreams of a day like Saturday kept them going.
And Saturday was their glory day as they defeated Glynn Barntown to win the Wexford Junior Hurling championship, and to bounce back into the intermediate grade of hurling for 2023.
Nolan is a national hunt trainer by trade but, with two nephews on the team in Sean and Darragh Cooper, as well as his own son Barry, there was something about this triumph that will stick with him that little bit more.
"I'd feel there's nearly more to enjoy with the GAA because there's more people involved. If a horse wins, the lads at the yard are delighted and the owners are delighted but when the team wins, what it does for the whole parish is unbelievable," he tells SportsJOE.
— Racing's InsideTrack (@RInsideTracktv) August 20, 2022
"There's been flags at the end of every laneway and the crowds over at the local pub this week and the local hall - it was crazy. There's more happiness out of a hurling team winning. We know it's only junior, but that's the grade we were in and the grade we were trying to get out of."
Nolan helped them out of it in his role as selector/trainer which means that, over the last while, he's been training horses in the morning and hurlers in the evening. Some life.
"Oh God, there's none of them easy," he says.
"I'd say, at the end of the day, as head-wrecking as both businesses can be, I'd nearly say that hurling can be more strenuous on the mind," he adds with a laugh.
"It's tough to watch the both of them - matches and races - when you've skin in the game.But it's very, very enjoyable and I love being involved in the hurling. There's nothing like being with your own patch."
"There's a few of us involved, there's myself and Johnny Delaney, coach Colin Keeling, Paul Nolan, James Freeman and we do it in a joint effort.
"Sure it was a great lift for the parish. It couldn't have come at a better time, because we're in the process of finishing off a new complex there with the dressing rooms and hand-ball alleys, and sure it was a great boost for us all to win this. I've never seen celebrations like it to be honest."
And, while Ferns are said to have celebrated their senior win like never before, you'd better believe the junior champions lived up to it.
“More than likely we’ll drink out through it so there’ll be no hangover," said Nolan in the below interview with Wexford GAA's Laura O'Leary.
"We’ll drink into the hangover and just keep drinking then so I don’t think we’ll feel any pain."
— Wexford GAA (@OfficialWexGAA) August 23, 2022
Davidstown Courtnacuddy is the club Nolan himself hurled for, and as he told us in a previous interview, he could easily have been involved for the county in the famous summer of '96 if it wasn't for a knee injury at the wrong time.
“I did the knee at an awful bad time. Injured, bolluxed at 27 when Liam Griffin was coming in. I pulled the ligaments off one whole side of my knee and I was going to have to get the whole thing wired and Tadhg O’Sullivan said I had no chance of playing again.
“It was a question of just having a limp and being lucky enough to go that way. After me doing that, I couldn’t even stand in the goal in an indoor soccer match. Listen, I wasn’t much good, but maybe if I calmed down and listened a bit, I might have done a little bit better…”
“It’s funny though," he added.
"There’s a few of the Wexford hurlers who have a couple of different syndicates with me now, Kevin Foley and a few of the ex Wexford footballers too. Nicky English has a few horses with me… it’s amazing.
"There’s that link there between GAA and horse-racing all the time. We had right auld craic there when Wexford played Tipp and nearly beat them in the semi-final. We’d always stay together and head back to the same pubs after the games and the chat would be all hurling. There’s nothing I’d rather do as go to a good hurling match."
And for Nolan, Saturday was as good as it gets.
"I've been involved now for the last three or four years. We've very small numbers at adult level, we can only field one team. We've a good few lads who are playing rugby at higher standards, James Doyle for example, is in with the Irish U20s and Conal Kervick playing for Clontarf, and they can't play GAA. It's very difficult to lose those players and still be competitive, but we seem to be coming nicely at underage and hopefully we can build on this one now, and we can continue to progress."