TWO years ago Sean Whelan was playing underage intercounty hurling for Carlow and was being touted as a definite star of the future. A lot can happen in that time but on Sunday, sure enough, he was toughing it out against a Galway team that had contested the last two All-Ireland senior hurling finals.
Could he really have envisaged he would ever get a chance to pit himself against one of the best teams in the land? He dodged the question about what it meant for him personally.
“Inside the camp we always knew we could eventually get there. We have put in trojan work over the winter over the last three years since Colm Bonnar and the boys came in. We have absolutely put in the work and always envisaged we could get there,” the young Ballinkillen man said.
He said it was a controlled performance by Carlow.
“We sat in the dressing room doing video analysis during the week and noticed we hit a lot of ball away. We needed to tidy it up a bit and we kept a calmer head. Maybe we thought we had to move the ball too quickly (last week) instead of using our heads. We have the hurling to match any team.”
Galway registered nine wides in the first half. Many of them were enforced by good Carlow defence. On the other hand, the home side gave away too much silly ball.
“It evened itself out. We said coming out in the second half that as long as we stopped them scoring goals in the first 10 to 15 minutes, we will get something,” said Whelan.
“The backs were very tight. The full-back line was unbelievable. The half-backs were talking to the midfielders all through the game and we were all on the one page. It showed, 100 per cent. The last five minutes there were goose-bumps going down the spine. Unfortunately, we gave away a silly free and Joe Canning put it over,” said Whelan ruefully.
Would he have swopped places with Marty when the Carlow man stood over that final free.
“We leave it to him. He was bang in form. That is why we give them to him,” laughed Whelan.
If Sean is one of the new kids on the block then Marty Kavanagh, who is less than a year out of college, seems to have been around forever.
“To be honest it is great to get a result. It would have been hard to come out of there losing by a point or two. Maybe a few years ago we would have. It showed the ambitions of the players and where they want to go,” Kavanagh said.
Both he and Whelan were smiling, but there was no over-the-top celebrations. Perhaps it was more a feeling of satisfaction.
“We won’t be carried away,” promised the game’s leading scorer.
“It is brilliant. We were very disappointed coming home from Dublin last Saturday. We felt we had left the game behind us. We knuckled down again this week. All we were saying was that if we didn’t get a result we wouldn’t be happy. Thankfully we did. The boys showed savage heart, save work-rate and some savage scores taken.”