Aylward expecting feathers to fly in Wild Geese Trophy
By John Harrington
Kilkenny attacker Ger Aylward is predicting a full-blooded clash with Galway when the two Leinster hurling teams contest the inaugural Wild Geese Trophy in Sydney on Sunday.
The showdown between the Allianz Hurling League Champions of the last two seasons is the highlight of a weekend celebration of Irish culture that is the Sydney Irish Festival.
This will be the first major inter-county hurling match to be played in Australia and the game will be shown live on TV via Fox Sports while it will also be broadcast in Ireland by RTE.
With silverware on the line, Aylward is expecting both teams to be very keen to lay down an early marker ahead of the 2019 season.
“Exactly, we're back into it now so there'll be no friendlies,” the Glenmore man told GAA.ie
“We'll be taking it very seriously as they will as well I'm sure.”
Sunday’s match will be a repeat of this year’s epic Leinster SHC Final which eventually saw Galway triumph after a replay.
That’s two Leinster titles in a row now for the Tribesmen who have established themselves as the dominant force in the province.
That’s a status that Kilkenny were accustomed to for a very long time, and Aylward doesn’t mind admitting everyone in the Cats camp is determined to regain it in the near future.
“We were there doing that for a few years and now Galway are doing it,” he said. “We have to get back to the standard where Galway have been.
“This is the start of the new season in terms of trying to do that and hopefully we can push it on again in 2019.”
Aylward is keen to put his own best foot forward for Kilkenny both in Sydney and into 2019 after a couple of injury-plagued years.
He established himself as one of the most exciting inside forwards in the country back in 2015, but then his progress was derailed by a ruptured cruciate ligament in early 2016
“Yeah, it (2015) was a great season,” he said. “I'm trying to get back to that now because I haven't been there for the last two years. Getting back to that level is what I'm aiming for, yeah.
“I have to focus first on getting my place on the panel and then just drive it on from there.”
What Aylward wants more than anything is an injury-free 2019, because his comeback from that ruptured cruciate was complicated by a series of other injuries that followed one another in quick succession.
“Yeah, very frustrating, very frustrating,” he said. “Hopefully everything is alright now again. I'm going well and I'm hoping I can stay right for the coming season, touch-wood.
“The hamstring went straight away the minute I came back. I nearly pulled it off the bone. That was another six weeks out.
“And then I did my shoulder. It was just all sorts of hardships after coming back from the knee.
“Hopefully this year now I'll be able to get a good run at it again.”
At the age of 26, Aylward now finds himself as one of the oldest and most experienced members of a new-look and youthful Kilkenny panel.
They made major strides in 2018 by winning the Allianz League and, after coming up just short against eventual champions Limerick in the All-Ireland SHC Quarter-Final, Aylward is convinced they’re good enough to contest strongly for the Liam MacCarthy Cup again in 2019.
“There's very little between any of the teams,” he said. “We were very close to Galway in the Leinster Final and gave them a good run in the replay.
“We could have pipped Limerick. They did very well to come back and get that point at the end of it that pushed them on.
“There's not much between us. If we can just get a little bit extra this year then hopefully we can go all the way.”