Martin Breheny: Kavanagh one of the great defenders
Published 15/02/2012 | 05:00
As yet another famous name from Kilkenny's incredibly successful era drifts into retirement, Michael Kavanagh will be remembered as one of the great defenders of any era.
Understanding the mechanics of defending (tackling, shielding the ball, holding your ground, being aware of space, good under a high ball) is the most important requirement for a corner-back, which explains why Kavanagh thrived for so long.
Kavanagh had so many stand-out days in a career that stretched from 1998 to last year but, for me, one of the most crucial contributions he ever made was in the 2009 All-Ireland final against Tipperary. Everybody recalls Henry Shefflin's penalty goal, followed shortly afterwards by Martin Comerford's clincher but, in between, Kavanagh made an intervention which was possibly just as influential.
Tipp attacked down Kilkenny's left when Kavanagh swept across from the right wing, grabbed the ball inches off the slippery surface and skidded over the sideline. However, he applied enough reverse thrust to keep his hand and the ball inside the line before delivering a long clearance which led to Comerford's goal. In the space of 10 seconds, Tipperary were four points down when, without Kavanagh's instinctive excellence, they might have grabbed the equaliser. On such tiny margins are All-Ireland finals decided.