By Kieran Murphy
WHEN Marty Kavanagh scored 1-9 for Carlow in their 2018 NHL Division 2A final victory over Westmeath, the player, the rest of the team and Carlow hurling fans were already resigned to not having him for the Joe McDonagh Cup campaign.
‘Mouse’ was joining the ranks of top-class GAA sportsmen going to work and play hurling in America for the summer.
With Kerry, Laois, Antrim, Meath and Westmeath in the Joe McDonagh group of six, Carlow without Kavanagh were not exactly favourites to make the final, never mind win it.
The league champions shrugged off the loss of what should have been a key man and went on to beat Westmeath in the final at Croke Park by 2-26 to 1-24.
“It was a big call I made last summer but it is something I don’t regret. That was one summer, a once off and I was always going to come back this summer if I got the call.”
Kavanagh didn’t even see the game.
“I was up hoping to watch it but I couldn’t get a link to it,” he explained.
He came back for the club championship where his St Mullins side were beaten by Mount Leinster Rangers in the final. Then it was back to intercounty duty
In Division 1B of the National Hurling League, it is doubtful Carlow would have maintained their status without Kavanagh. He converted a tricky free when Carlow drew with Galway in Netwatch Cullen Park while it wasn’t just his 0-8 against Offaly in the relegation play-off which saw Carlow survive. Kavanagh was outstanding that day, putting his body on the line and creating vital scores.
Now he can look forward to Galway away on Sunday and Kilkenny in Carlow seven days later.
“That is the best thing when you aren’t given a chance to defy the odds. It is David and Goliath stuff. We are not going to make up the numbers. We are confident in our own ability and are hopeful we will hit form on the day. Maybe a bit of luck and we are definitely not of a mindset that we are going to be beaten,” says Kavanagh.
Kilkenny players tell stories of trying to impress Brian Coady by arriving at Nowlan Park at least 30 minutes before training and getting a bit of extra work in.
Kavanagh says Carlow players are now doing this.
“Everyone wants to play against Galway, Kilkenny, Dublin and Wexford. Everyone is bursting themselves to be there.
“There are lads out pucking a ball up to 40 minutes before training begins. Things have never been as good for this group of lads and long may it continue. The goalies might be out over an hour before training starts. It is great to see it. Some lads are going straight from work to training.” he says.
It is the players’ choice. A wish to be as well prepared for four major challenges. Kavanagh has done so much for club and county. Now there is this step into the Leinster championship.
“No-one is holding a gun to our heads. You do it because you love it. You want to play for Carlow, do people proud and that is what we are aiming to do.”