GAA Editor @BrianGBarry
Marty Kavanagh and St Mullins gunning for Leinster glory after 'awful experience'
Last Updated: 01/12/19 11:03am
St Mullins have embarked on quite the winter odyssey, with three successive one-point wins securing a Leinster final date with Ballyhale Shamrocks.
Undoubtedly the standout achievement to date was their shock win over 2017 and 2018 All-Ireland champions Cuala.
However, the anticipated elation at the full-time whistle of their win over the Dublin supremos didn't transpire, as selector Micheál Ryan took ill and was rushed to hospital.
"It was an awful experience," said St Mullins and Carlow hurler Marty Kavanagh. "There were lads crying. I wouldn't want to go through it again.
"Thankfully we got good news later that evening that he was coming around. There were no celebrations."
When they backed up the victory with another narrow win over Rathdowney-Errill, the outpouring of emotion was clear to see.
"We could see after the Rathdowney match that everyone brought out those celebrations after that match," Kavanagh said.
"It was great for the people of St Mullins to celebrate. Obviously it was an awful thing after the Cuala match, but thankfully Micheál is home from hospital now, and he was up training on Sunday morning. Thankfully it's all good.
"I was in with him on the Wendesday before the Rathdowney match, in the hospital with him. He was in good old form. But he was in there for three or four weeks - fed up of it too.
"But obviously your health is your wealth."
David vs Goliath
On Sunday afternoon, they face reigning All-Ireland champions Ballyhale Shamrocks, and it's a daunting prospect.
"Kilkenny club hurling is such a high standard," Kavanagh noted.
"We would have seen a lot of them (Ballyhale). They're a star-studded team but we have savage belief in our group of players and that's all you can do is go out with the belief that you're here because you're good enough and that's the way we'll go into it.
"Every game we go out there, we believe we can win no matter who we're playing.
"But we know who we're coming up against. We're coming up against the best team in Ireland. These are the games ye want to be playing in. So we're relishing it.
"[There's a] great buzz around the place. Obviously a first provincial final, and to be Leinster senior, it's a big thing for St Mullins generally. So great excitement. Looking forward to it.
"There's great character in the team. It's unbelievable in training there at the moment, there's a great buzz. Raring to go now."
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Kavanagh is recognised as one of the finest hurlers in the country, impressing for both club and county. But growing up, he followed Kilkenny.
"That time, Carlow hurling wasn't as big as it is now," he explained. "We just went to All-Irelands and that, at that time. We'd support Kilkenny.
"Henry Shefflin would have been a lad I would have looked up to, definitely. All I used to do in my childhood was go to Kilkenny matches, with my uncles and my father.
"It's brilliant to go up against these lads."
Of course, Carlow hurling's stock has sky-rocketed in recent years, and Kavanagh is aware that St Mullins are representing the county as a whole on Sunday.
"It's definitely flying the Carlow flag," he smiled. "Once you get out of Carlow, you're representing Carlow as well as your parish obviously. The support we get from other clubs is brilliant. You get some amount of texts on the phone before and after matches from different clubs and people in Carlow so it's brilliant."
They'll be hoping to do their county proud on Sunday afternoon in Portlaoise.