Optimism in the air as Martin Kavanagh welcomes the big-time
After Division One placing, Carlow hurlers will mix it with top championship teams
Carlow’s Seán Whelan and Martin Kavanagh celebrate their win against Offaly in the Allianz Hurling League Division 1B relegation play-off at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park, Co Offaly, on March 10th. Photograph: Tom O’Hanlon/Inpho
Martin Kavanagh is in optimistic mood. Carlow hurlers were one of the stories of the hurling league, drawing with 2017 All-Ireland champions Galway – courtesy of Kavanagh’s equaliser – and earning their place in the new, restructured Division One for 2020. In three weeks they open their championship campaign in the Leinster round robin by heading to Galway to try to reprise their league heroics.
He needs the optimism. As McDonagh Cup winners last year, Carlow qualified for the senior provincial championship and will face four matches in five weeks against top opponents and with no time to cover for injuries or suspensions.
“Carlow has such small numbers that a few injuries would cost us big-time. It’s important to prepare right now and get the bodies right. We’ve been waiting for games like this for years, so really looking forward to it.”
He sees, without gloating, a glimpse of hope in Galway’s predominant injury issue, the one that keeps out 2018 Hurler of the Year Joe Canning.
“It’s a pity he is out because he was hurling some stuff. It will help us, no doubt about it, to try and go up there and get something out of it.”
The other away match is in Wexford, and Kavanagh remembers how close they ran them – two points – in a 2013 All-Ireland qualifier, a cause of further optimism.
“We’ve always done well there and won’t really mind going down.”
Carlow will be packed, local derby as well. It’s great. When I was a young lad I used to only go to Kilkenny games
It is, though, the home matches against Dublin and Kilkenny that he’s really looking forward to. They were very competitive with Dublin in the league, and he grew up as one of those GAA proxy supporters, following the fortunes of a successful neighbour.
“Yeah. I suppose when the fixtures came out it was the one game that really caught your eye: Kilkenny at home.
“Carlow will be packed, local derby as well. It’s great. When I was a young lad I used to only go to Kilkenny games. My father was a big Kilkenny man [supporter] and so were his brothers. You wouldn’t be going to Carlow matches; you’d be going to Kilkenny matches. Now Brian Cody and the team are coming to town and you’re playing them.”
So there was big support for Kilkenny?
“Yeah, yeah. It’d kind of annoy you a bit, but I suppose we’re turning the screw now and they’re coming to support us now as well.”