Kavanagh joins Cats exodus
The last player to have played under a Kilkenny manager other than Brian Cody has become the latest to announce his retirement.
Michael Kavanagh has come to the decision just weeks after the departure of Eddie Brennan and goalkeeper PJ Ryan.
The St Lachtain's man becomes the seventh Kilkenny player in the last 18 months to have stepped away from inter-county hurling following on from Derek Lyng, James Ryall and Martin Comerford, who went before the 2011 season started, and James 'Cha' Fitzpatrick, Ryan and Brennan, who have quit since last September's final.
Kavanagh has collected the same number of All-Ireland medals -- eight -- as Henry Shefflin and Brennan, but his Leinster medal count is higher. With 13 provincial titles, he has one more than either Shefflin or Brennan.
A Kilkenny minor in 1997, Kavanagh was introduced to the senior squad by the then manager Kevin Fennelly in 1998 and won his first Leinster medal that year when they beat Offaly in the final before losing an All-Ireland final to the same opponents two months later.
Kavanagh has been a formidable defender who has also won five league medals and was named an All Star on four occasions -- 2002, '03, '07 and '08.
Kavanagh has had less game time in recent years and last started a championship match for Kilkenny in the 2009 All-Ireland final against Tipperary.
John Dalton took over from him in 2010, while Paul Murphy had a spectacular first season in 2011 in Kavanagh's old No 2 shirt. The emergence of these players has made Kavanagh's decision all the more straightforward and he admitted he knew that the time was right to walk away.
"There comes a time when you know it is time to go. That time has come for me. Not winning a minor All-Ireland was my one regret," he said. "But how could I have regrets? I arrived for a golden era in Kilkenny hurling and I got to play with and against some players who will forever be remembered as giants of the game," continued Kavanagh, who lists the 2009 All-Ireland triumph against Tipperary as probably the most special moment of his inter-county career.
"Kilkenny are in a good place now, and it is time for me to hand over to the next generation. I made the best contribution I could and I enjoyed every moment of it. The years just flew by."
Kavanagh's departure now leaves Shefflin out on his own as Kilkenny's longest-serving player, while Noel Hickey, Jackie Tyrrell and JJ Delaney have all been around since the start of the last decade.