He didn’t enjoy watching the last half hour of last Sunday’s epic Munster club final.
Getting sent off in the second half against Cratloe did nothing for his nerves, but Kilmallock’s Gavin O’Mahony can relax now.
“It was kind of surreal. To be fair to this group, they are a very grounded bunch. I think the last five games we have been pretty much underdogs. Whether that has helped or not, we remain very focused, we never looked past any game.
“It (the sending-off) was only a bit of pushing and shoving. It was probably a bit of cuteness on his behalf, there was a bit of gamesmanship. I was already on a yellow. There was nothing in it. The top of my hurley had been broken. It probably looked desperate.
“I was sick to the pit of my stomach and you think it is gone from you. I’ve been lucky enough with Limerick and Kilmallock to always be in the heat of the battle so you can always have some influence but my god, what prayers I didn’t say there at the finish of normal time.”
His teammates got over the line, however: “The battling qualities that are there — I don’t know really where they are after coming from because in the last couple of years we were labelled as a nice hurling team, skilful. To be fair the lads have really dug in over the last couple of games when tested and that is more rewarding that anything.”
O’Mahony saluted coach Ger ‘Sparrow’ O’Loughlin: “He never wavered with his belief and there were a few dark days. Na Piarsaigh gave us a real trimming and it was a case of ‘are we even going to make a semi-final’.
“I think that really grounded us and from there on he has managed to keep us aiming high but at the same time we are focused on the basics and fighting for each other.
“If a lad knows on the team that he is not working hard enough he is not going to be on — it’s a great ethic to have on any side.”
Still, he “thought it was gone” when Conor McGrath got Cratloe’s last goal, almost on the stroke of full time.
“I had given up. Credit to these guys. I am indebted to them now. I really felt like it was gone from us a couple of times.
“I think the last game (against Sarsfields of Cork) was a huge one for us. It was a milestone because it was in Kilmallock and we had lost twice previously in Kilmallock. “We put a lot of emphasis on just winning that game and forgetting about everything else, similar to what we did with the rest of them.
“Sunday was the same, just win this game, you can’t have any impact later on in the championship if you can’t win the game in front of you.
“It’s knock-out hurling: the boys have improved in every game, even with 14 men, the quality and composure they showed on the ball. The last couple of scores and points they got there was incredible. It really was backs to the wall. They managed to fashion a score from a few short passes.”
It’s a rising tide for Limerick hurling also, of course.
“The whole movement in Limerick and mindset had to be changed and I think slowly but surely there are few good guys involved, the players are developing a steely attitude and there is a real hunger there. They say hunger is a great sauce but that is a lot of it.
“I’m not saying the other teams weren’t hungry but I think there is just a small bit of extra belief that is there. These lads have been put through an incredible coaching system, under 6s, under 8s, for Kilmallock, indoors pretty much for 12 months of the year and that’s not blowing the thing up.
“It’s a core group of lads right up through Paddy Kelly, Bernie Savage, Canon Willie Fitzmaurice, Tom O’Donnell the club secretary, all lads who gave incredible time. It didn’t just happen by chance and that has carried through and I think it’s the same with Na Piarsaigh, they have been lucky enough to have great guys involved at club level.
“We’re not afraid of winning any more. You saw two or three years ago with me I was afraid to win any match.”
He can remember 1994, Kilmallock’s last All-Ireland journey. Just about.
“I remember being in Croke Park but all I remember is eating sandwiches in the stand. I remember looking at these guys. I just remember pucking balls out to Mike Houlihan and guys like Dave Clarke, these guys at training. That to us was huge.
“It’s not lost on us that the tradition is there in Kilmallock. The hunger that was instilled in us. When they were winning games in 1992 and 1994 and we were looking on, this was the way it was. There was never another option as regards another sport.
“We owe a lot to those men. It was probably a bit of a hurt there that we hadn’t gone on to win a Munster club, those guys won two counties and went on to win two Munster clubs, at least we have a medal to show.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved