By John Foley
SUNDAY’S senior hurling county final started at a whirlwind pace with both teams looking to set down a physical marker in the early exchanges.
In the middle of the pitch, St Mullins captain Jack Kavanagh was in the thick of the exchanges. After the final whistle he accepted it was tough to find the space to settle
“The intensity was unbelievable,” he said. “The first two, three balls I got, I was hooked and blocked. Rangers brought savage intensity. We didn’t panic, we settled and we stuck to our hurling.
Kavanagh said the team battled for each other impressively throughout the game.
“We have a small pick but savage heart and savage respect for one another,” he said. “We’re a band of brothers. The battles that some of our players faced off the field this year were immense and it pulled us together. To win it today was unbelievable. It means so much.”
He insisted the three in a row was not a motivating factor for the team during the year.
“Any time it was mentioned, it was by someone outside of the group,” he said. “We were focussed on one game at a time. It was about winning a championship. It wasn’t about winning a third championship in a row. Winning is everything in sport and to do three in a row is special. I never thought I’d be in this position when we lost in 2013 and Rangers had won three in a row. You thought, when is this going to happen? We dug deep and here we are.”
The exchanges were keenly fought during the game but Kavanagh says the players on both teams have huge respect for each other’s achievements.
“Hurling down south of the county is so strong. I work with all the Rangers lads in Borris. I’m related to 10 or 12 of the lads on the field today. On the field, we’ll kill for our team. Off the field we get on. We’ll have a drink tomorrow I’m sure, and it’ll be put to bed. That’s the way it should be. It’s hurling, it’s sport. Life goes on.”
The St Mullins forward division had a big game with Marty Kavanagh winning the man-of-the-match award and James Doyle proving a constant thorn in his opponents’ side.
Doyle said the team put in a massive effort throughout the year, particularly after their loss to Rangers in the group stages.
“We just went back and worked harder and thankfully it paid off,” he said. “Two is fantastic but three in a row, I can’t even put into words how good it is. We looked towards the county final and now we can go back to the pitch and start working towards Leinster.”
The theme of the Leinster championship was something Seamus Murphy was also quick to emphasise after the game.
“I suppose in 2014 we were just focussed on getting the county title and we were a bit immature in that [Leinster club championship] game up in Westmeath. Last year was one of those days and it went against us. Even in 2010 we lost to Glenealy in intermediate. We know we haven’t performed in Leinster at all. The team is here, the players are here to push on and get over that first hurdle. We’ll be focussed on that and we know it’s something we have to put right.”
Murphy said the early exchanges set the tone for the game.
“It was ferocious for the first five minutes by both sides, in fairness,” he said. “There was a lot of little hurls getting in, getting flicks on balls. After the first 15 minutes we had done a lot of work and should have been a bit further ahead on the scoreboard. Still, we were happy enough going in at half time. We just knew we had to drive it on in the second half. This team, one thing we always have to work hard on is bringing it for a consistent 60 minutes.”
The big centre forward said the win means so much to the community.
“Everything is focused on camogie and hurling in St Mullins,” he said. “Three in a row is great. Rangers set the bar for us and we were striving to reach it. Before this run we were down for a good while, so it’s nice to enjoy it.”