Seamus Murphy reckons St Mullins colleagues Marty Kavanagh and James Doyle would “walk onto every club in Kilkenny”.
Experienced Carlow attacker Murphy has watched the duo develop and reckons they’re up there with the very best.
That tallies with the assessment of St Mullins manager Niall O’Donnell who described club captain and county star Kavanagh, nicknamed ‘Mouse’, as “one of the best hurlers I’ve ever seen”.
Doyle’s talent was there for everyone to see when he scored two outrageous points to see off Rathdowney-Errill in the AIB Leinster club semi-finals.
That provided a rare moment in the spotlight and they’ll have an even bigger opportunity to break down what Murphy feels is a ‘stigma’ towards Carlow clubs when they play Ballyhale Shamrocks in Sunday’s final.
“To be honest, I’d be pretty confident saying that they would walk onto every club team in Kilkenny,” said Murphy of Kavanagh and Doyle.
“It’s great that we’re on this run and that they get to be seen. ‘Mouse’ would have a good name from the county but James is brilliant too, he’s so athletic, a great hurler and the whole country saw what he did against Rathdowney-Errill, which was great.
“Hopefully themselves and all the other players can reproduce that form and people can see that there are quality hurlers in Carlow. Because a lot of the time people just wouldn’t see it, even when the county team is going well. It would still be overlooked.”
Murphy said the low regard for Carlow teams was summed up when they were made underdogs for the Rathdowney game despite taking out the former back to back All-Ireland winners.
“Obviously against Cuala we were underdogs and then against Rathdowney we were underdogs, even though we’d just beaten Cuala, the 2017 and 2018 All-Ireland winners,” he said. “And we were playing the semi-final at home too. So there is probably still that stigma about Carlow club hurling. The fact that this game will be broadcast nationwide means that people will hopefully get to see boys doing their stuff.”
Murphy, Kavanagh and Doyle have already come up against Ballyhale’s best once this year.
That was back in June when the trio lined out for Carlow in the Leinster championship defeat to a Kilkenny side containing Reid, Fennelly and Adrian Mullen.
The St Mullins players contributed 1-8 between them that day though Carlow still lost by 14 points to the eventual All-Ireland finalists.
Murphy knows that plenty of neutrals expect a similar situation in Portlaoise on Sunday.
“Look, it’s Ballyhale. It’s as good as you’re going to have to face,” he said. “All we can do is make sure we show up at the throw-in and perform. That’s the big thing. If we can do that and just stay in the game then you can see what happens and who knows. It’s like any underdog, you need a bit of luck. You need everybody to play really well and hope that a few of them will be off form. You need everything to go right and hopefully it will.”
One thing is for certain, St Mullins won’t throw in the towel if the going gets tough. They’ve won their last three games by a single point, going back to the county final win over 2013 Leinster champions Mount Leinster Rangers.
And they required extra-time to get the better of Ballinkillen in the Carlow semi-finals.
“The key for us on Sunday really is not letting the hype of the game and the Ballyhale name get to us,” said Murphy. “We’ve just got to try to make sure we’re there in the game in the middle of the second-half. We can’t let the game be done and dusted after 20 minutes.”