LAST weekend, Gavin O’Mahony was in Cheltenham, as Kilmallock was gripped by hurling fever.
JP McManus paid for a weekend break for the Limerick hurlers, taking in the autumn festival in the Cotswolds. They flew out on Friday and the Kilmallock contingent were back on Sunday morning to resume preparations. O’Mahony said it was great to have even a very short break from the Munster final build-up.
“Definitely, it’s gone a bit hurling mad here. It was nice to switch off for a day or two, turn the phone off and relax.”
It’s been a long year for O’Mahony who, as well as the highs of a county final victory, also experienced a Munster final defeat to Cork and another defeat against Kilkenny in Croke Park. While the break after Sunday’s game (barring a draw) will be welcome, he isn’t complaining.
“There are friends of mine on the county panel who’d love to be still going and to still have the chance to win a medal. You’ve to tell yourself that and remind yourself that you’re in a privileged position.”
He says hurling in the Munster club championship is particularly physical, even more so than the inter-county game.
“The time of year has a huge bearing on it. It’s a bit slower but a bit more physical. I definitely felt it after the Sarsfields game. As the months are going on and the ground is getting that bit softer, you’d definitely know you’ve been in a game. But there’s no doubt that being successful and winning something with your club is the ultimate. You’re playing with lads that you grew up with, went to school with, you’ve fought with and got on with for as long as you can remember. It’s very special. When you’re lucky enough to be involved with the county, you might take those big games for granted but the club lads are chomping at the bit now to get the chance to play in a Munster final.”
On Monday, he still hadn’t watched the Cratloe-Thurles Sarsfields match and didn’t realise how early on the sending off had come. The only time he has watched them play was in the county final and he admitted he hasn’t a huge knowledge of the boys in blue.
“I watched the county final. I’d know Sean and Podge [Collins] well enough but other than that, I wouldn’t know much about the team or how they play. When they’re in another county you don’t think you’ll have to worry about them but it’s a concern for us now. We’ll try and keep the focus on ourselves, get our own house in order and we’ll need a huge performance to win this game I think if we can get ourselves right and focus right, we’ll have half a chance.”
Obviously, any team facing a side that includes Conor McGrath is going to have a plan for dealing with him, given his immense performances over the last two years. No doubt Kilmallock have a strategy for Cratloe’s most dangerous attacker but O’Mahony was giving nothing away.
“I don’t think there’s any great science to it, to be honest with you. You’re hoping for a bit of luck and that you can limit the ball going in. At the moment, he’s probably the best forward in the country and to stop a fella like that from hurling, it’s going to take 15 lads working very hard. I don’t think there’s two many corner-backs in the country who could mark him one-on-one and hope to come out on top. We’re well aware of his capabilities. He’s been a huge player for them this year and I’d be hoping for a bit of luck more than anything.”
Having lost to Thurles Sarsfields twice in the Munster Club Championship, Kilmallock must have been pleased that Cratloe knocked out the Tipp champions.
On the same day, Kilmallock needed extra time to see off Sarsfields of Cork and O’Mahony said they were somewhat daunted after the hour was up.
“We were worried at the end of normal time. We had a six-point lead and had relinquished it. Our backs were to the wall and we had to try and grind it out again. It was a game that could have gone either way.”
Obviously, Kilmallock are more familiar with the Gaelic Grounds than Cratloe but he doesn’t feel the venue will have much of a bearing.
“We were definitely happy to win the toss and to play in Limerick. But we’ve lost enough games there too. Cratloe went down to Waterford and had a great win the last day. Going to a venue they wouldn’t be overly familiar with is no great disadvantage to them.”