Belief is key for gritty St Mullins
By Cian O'Connell
For St Mullins belief is key according to talisman Marty Kavanagh.
A stunning AIB Leinster Club SHC win over Cuala confirmed St Mullins' potential, while the poise shown against Rathdowney-Errill at the penultimate stage was equally impressive.
Now the Carlow standard bearers face a star studded Ballyhale Shamrocks in Sunday's provincial decider in Portlaoise.
Before the Cuala tussle, though, Kavanagh was adamant St Mullins' could cause a surprise.
"Every game we go out there, we believe we can win no matter who we’re playing," Kavanagh says. "Obviously, they were favourites for the All-Ireland along with Ballyhale. But we played them in 2016 as well, we knew a bit about them.
"It was a matter of being in that game in the second half, and we knew we had a bit of experience, and we could overturn them and thankfully we did."
To follow that success up with a splendid victory over Rathdowney-Errill illustrated how far St Mullins' have travelled.
Next on the agenda is a demanding assignment against Ballyhale Shamrocks. Henry Shefflin, Shamrocks manager, was Kavanagh's idol growing up.
"Yeah, I suppose Henry Shefflin would have been a lad I would have looked up to, definitely," Kavanagh admits.
"All I used to do in my childhood was go to Kilkenny matches, with my uncles and my father. It was just a thing we did.
"So again look it’s brilliant to go up against these lads. We wouldn’t have played against… we would have played against Kilkenny this year in Championship, but that’s about it. So we’re really looking forward to coming up against the best."
With St Mullins and Eire Og contesting Leinster finals it is a proud time for the county.
"It's definitely flying the Carlow flag," Kavanagh remarks. "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.
"Obviously Eire Og are flying the flag as well so to have two Carlow teams in the senior final it's brilliant for the county."
Kavanagh thoroughly enjoyed hurling in the Leinster Championship for Carlow in 2019.
"It was brilliant for the League and Championship," Kavanagh comments. "You'd love to be going back there and training for the Leinster round robin again but unfortunately we got relegated to Joe Mc so that's a pity.
"But I think that's changing thankfully so all we can do now is try get back there. As regards enjoyment throughout the year with Carlow, it was unbelievable.
"The games we played, the crowds and everything, it was a new experience for the players. Hopefully we can back to that level again."
Kavanagh stresses how Kilkenny have assisted Carlow teams develop by accommodating them in competitions.
"Kilkenny are brilliant for Carlow and as I said we've huge respect for them," Kavanagh continues.
"It's well documented that there's four senior teams in Carlow so we know each other inside out. "There's no real secrets so it's important, especially for the club lads when we're playing all county, that they're playing these matches in February, March, April, May and June.
"They get to play these Kilkenny teams and it's a good standard for them as well. The club boys are back training in February, it's a long year just to play four senior matches so for them to be able to go and play Kilkenny games it's big for them. "It brings on us as a club and them as players as well so it's great."
Now Kavanagh and St Mullins' are busy preparing for a high stakes encounter against the most respected hurling club in the land.