By Eanna O’Reilly
Laois and Rathdowney-Errill star Mark Kavanagh has had more than his fair share of injury setbacks. After suffering two successive ACL knee tears in 2016 and 2017, he has spent a huge amount of time on the treatment table during his career. Its been a tough journey for the Laois man, who missed a county final with his club in 2016, and he is savouring his involvement with the county even more as a result. ‘‘The competitive nature that’s in you as a player, you just want to be out on the field. The ACL is a tough one because you’re out for so long, missing those big occasions like county finals, when there’s a buzz all over the parish. You can still be part of a squad, but its really hard going to games just to watch on the side-line, when you feel like you could have an influence if you were playing. Injuries are a tough part of being a player but it’s just something you have to live with I suppose. But it’s been great to be back, everyone is buzzing, and we can’t wait for the championship now. Earlier in the year we didn’t know if it was going ahead at all. Now we’re all looking forward to getting out and playing in the championship’’.
Speaking on The Backdoor Hurling Show Kavanagh is excited by the prospect of Laois building on a highly successful 2019 championship campaign this year. Under Eddie Brennan, Laois gained promotion to the Leinster senior championship and took a huge scalp by beating Dublin in the preliminary quarter final. This year, they will face Dublin once again in the Leinster quarter final, a game Kavanagh is really looking forward to. ‘‘No matter who we were drawn against, it was always going to be a top-class team we’d be up against. All of the other teams in Leinster probably have All-Ireland ambitions. We are just focussing on performing to our best. We are going to really embrace the championship and hopefully we can build on last years run. Dublin won’t lack any motivation obviously, after the result last year. But neither will we. We want to go out and prove that we weren’t just a flash in the pan. There’s huge motivation for us. We know it’ll be a difficult task, but we are really looking forward to it as a group’’.
Kavanagh credits manager Eddie Brennan and coach Niall Corcoran with creating a culture where the highest standards have been set, which has given Laois the ambition to reach the highest level and compete with the top hurling counties. ‘‘The biggest thing is that they (management) have set the standards where everyone has to perform every night in training, everyone has to put it in and be at their best and anything below that is not acceptable. It’s great to be involved in that culture and that environment. We want to make progress in the long term, not just to have sporadic victories. We want to make this culture grow in Laois and bring it into all of our county teams. Those are the standards they have set for us and its been brilliant to be a part of it’’.
Kavanagh himself reflects the new level of ambition which has become present in Laois hurling in recent years, as he describes his personal expectations for the team and the standards they hope to reach in the coming years. ‘‘In the long term, we want to be a county that challenges for silverware, that challenges for championships. We as players have to take accountability for that. The management can only see us for a few hours a week, we all individually have to put the work in ourselves and prepare like the players from all of the top counties do. You have to get yourself into the best possible shape you can to compete at the highest level. You have to nearly become obsessed with it. As a group, we are taking this championship game by game and our ambition is to win every time we go out’’.
Here’s the podcast with Laois senior hurler Mark Kavanagh: