Stylish Kilkenny double champions, Mullinavat didn’t give a thought to the future before Sunday’s intermediate hurling final.
However, immediately afterwards they were looking forward to the many and varied challenges that could lie ahead.
“There is no point in finishing hurling next week,” was the subtle message of intent from manager, Declan Wall, who plotted the league/championship doubled success for the club with fellow selectors, Tommy Frisby, John Dunphy and Pakie Wall.
The newly crowned champions are in action on Sunday in the Leinster club championship against Coill Dubh (Kildare) in Newbridge (2pm), and they want to try and drive on like Clara (2012) and the Rower-Inistioge (2013) did before them and capture provincial honours.
“The Leinster club championship can help us develop even further, if we can get things together and do well in it,” Mr Wall added. “That competition will open up a whole new level of competition to us.
“I want these guys to succeed, to win as much as they can. Look what the provincial club competition has done for so many Kilkenny clubs down the years? It can help us develop like it did many others.
“The 35 guys on the panel are the guys who win the medals. There is no point in being satisfied now. We are carrying the Kilkenny flag now. We will enjoy this moment, but we can’t think it is the end of the season for us.”
Mr Wall said all were “absolutely delighted” with the double success and promotion back to the senior grade next season.
“When you win the league final there will be pressure on you from all quarters,” he said when he looked back on the season and when the first leg of the journey was achieved.
“People see you as having potential for the championship, which everyone wants to win. People would swop the league any day for the championship. Winning the league was nice, but the season was all about the championship
“It is very hard to explain your feelings. When the final whistle sounded we were just thinking ‘thank God’ we won. We had 92 intense training sessions this season, and 24 games.
“This is our 25th game in all competitions, challenges and so on. We won 22 of those matches. The most disappointing day of the season was when we were beaten by Dicksboro in the Aylward Cup, because we should have won. That was the way we approached the season. Try and win everything.”
He insisted Mullinavat “have a great bunch of players.”
When he took over two years ago with the other selectors it was after the club had lost the under-21 county final.
“I could see the potential,” Declan assured. “I told the players they had what you just can’t buy, or you can’t coach into lads. It is belief and work rate.
“That is what it all boils down to. People saw it in the last two games against Young Irelands (Gowran) and Tullogher-Rosbercon in the championship semi-final. We never gave up.
“Near the end today it looked like Ballyragget had us. The flow of play was with them. Then our players went into another gear and drove on. We could even have scored a goal at the end, which would have been the icing on the cake.
“We didn’t create that many chances, but that was credit to an excellent Ballyragget defence. We met up on December 15 last and we said whoever beats Ballyragget this year would be county champions. It worked out that way. It’s us. The feeling is wonderful.”
He admitted that every team needs a bit of luck, and Mullinavat enjoyed it along the way. There was a great saying, he reminded, that the more you training the luckier you get.
“We covered all the angles we could,” he continued. “We got the players to buy into a professional set up. That includes their attitude outside of training. What matters outside training makes you a hurler. It is as simple as that.
“Unfortunately for Mullinavat they have been up and down in the senior championship like a yo, yo. I don’t want to see that happen. The first time the management team took over the one of the objectives was to implement a systematic programme for senior hurling.
“We are in a two year cycle at the moment. We have to push on. The players have to push on.”
Former Kilkenny star and team captain, Willie O’Dwyer described the success as “a great day for the Mullinavat club and parish.”
“It is brilliant to win,” he said of the success. “You can’t beat winning. Neither side gave an inch. The final was there to be won or lost right to the finish.
“St Patrick’s are a great team. Since they came up from the junior grade a few years ago they have been knocking on the door at intermediate level. They showed today the quality they have.
“I feel their pain. In 2010 we were in the losers dressing-room. It is not a nice place. They will be back.
“The drive for the double win came as the season progressed and people bought into the system put before them. I suppose the real drive really came from the under-21 players. In 2012 we were beaten in a final by St Lachtain’s by one point. Those lads came through last year and won the under-21 championship.
“That sparked something. That brought a winning mentality to the team and club. That was the springboard to where we are today. That’s where it all started.”
He said Mullinavat have been a yo, yo team since 2001, going up and down between the senior and intermediate grades.
“We we up senior in 2001 and went back down again,” Willie recalled. “We went back up in 2006 and we thought we were good enough to stay senior. Look, to be fair and to give credit to Declan Wall and his team of officials, who have brought great professionalism to the set up, we are in a good place going senior this time.
“We didn’t think about the Leinster championship up to this. We were lucky to make the final. With that in mind, we couldn’t be looking beyond it. We had two very tough matches in the championship.
“Now we can think of next week and playing in Leinster. You have to be constantly setting new and higher targets for yourself. We will enjoy tonight and tomorrow, and after that we will get ready for Leinster.
“I have no doubt Declan will have us back training quickly. We have earned the right to play in Leinster. The challenge of tomorrow will begin to excite us later in the week.”
One of the stars of the show was driving midfielder, Mark Mansfield, who helped himself to three points, one during a powerful finish.
“That was some game, right to the end,” Mark beamed. “We dug it out again. It has been the same in all our championship games. Against Gowran and Tullogher they went right to the end.
“We have a great group of players. They never know when they are beaten. The spirit in the group is exceptional. The young lads coming through are being led with respect by the older players. Everyone bonds well.”
He felt the squad has been improving all season. A win like this was a great boost. Mullinavat “lost two big people” during the year in Mick Carroll and John Walsh’s mother, Theresa, who both died.
“This will lift us all,” Mark insisted. “Hopefully we can go further and make things even better. I can’t wait for the challenge in Leinster. This is the first time I have been involved in anything like this.
“It is terrific, really enjoyable. I want to drive on. We have been looking at other clubs achieving. Some think Mullinavat are just a middling team who might not achieve too much.
“Who knows? When you see others doing well in Leinster, why not us, you wonder? When you are from Kilkenny you have to stand up. On days and in matches like this you never grow tired. This is the best day of my hurling life, winning this with the club. There is no better feeling.”