'Staying up is our number one objective' - Carlow's 'Mouse' Kavanagh determined to stay at Leinster's top table
IT'S refreshing when players say what they actually think rather than pre-rehearsed sound bites and survival - even if it means only winning one of their four games - in the Leinster SHC is all that's on the mind of Carlow star Marty 'Mouse' Kavanagh.
The Barrowsiders have continued where they left off - winning Division 2A league honours and claiming the inaugural Joe McDonagh Cup last season - with Kavanagh scoring the leveller in a famous league draw with Galway before playing an influential role as they relegated Offaly.
Next month's provincial round-robin series will be new territory for Carlow but Kavanagh is under no illusions that they "deserve to be there" and the St Mullins' attacker is intent on being competitive and hopefully picking up a victory along the way.
"Ah no, look, it would be just to stay up, that is the number one objective. To be competitive in every game will be a lot of it as well. We've some really good hurlers and we've savage belief in the group so we'll be disappointed if we're not competitive against teams," Kavanagh said.
"If you're in the games with 15 or 20 minutes to go, you just don't know what's going to happen so that's our objective. It's so evenly matched between the top four now.
"I suppose with (Joe) Canning injured it brings Galway back a small bit and I would have had them a good bit ahead of the rest. Sure Dublin are going well as well. But probably one win would do it (keep them up).
"I suppose Dublin at home is the game you'd look at to get a result but we can't look past Galway and Kilkenny either because you just don't know what's going to happen. Why not try to get a win in those?"
After visiting Galway on May 12, neighbours Kilkenny come to town a week later in what is a particularly mouth-watering prospect for Kavanagh and the 24-year-old is still getting his head around playing against a county he followed growing up.
Supporting Brian Cody's Cats was a pastime for many Carlow folk during their golden period in the noughties but with a resurgence in their own fortunes under Colm Bonnar, Kavanagh is happy to see them putting their own county first.
"When I was a young lad I used to only go to Kilkenny games. My father was a big Kilkenny man (he's from Clashganny in Carlow) and so were his brothers. You wouldn't be going to Carlow matches, you'd be going to Kilkenny matches," he said.
"Now Brian Cody and these are coming to town and you're playing them. At the time Kilkenny were going so well and there were more Carlow lads going to Kilkenny matches, that's the way it was. It'd kind of annoy you a bit but I suppose we're turning the screw now and they're coming to support us."
It's a bit of a family affair every time he dons the Carlow shirt with his brother Jack alongside him as well as a host of cousins - Denis and Jack Murphy, Richard and Paul Coady and Kevin McDonald - and what they are achieving with just four senior clubs is remarkable.
Kavanagh, who debuted in 2011 and has seen many "tough years", feels that Carlow's success is unsustainable unless resources are ploughed into underage development and he thinks now is the ideal time to do so.
"We're getting a lot of praise now and that's grand because there's a good group of lads there but in ten years' time if something's not done at underage, Carlow hurling might be non-existent," Kavanagh said.
"For now, it seems all good because we're going so well and our age group would be young enough, we're lucky enough that way but I suppose in ten years' time it mightn't look so good.
"So it's important for the employees of Carlow GAA to really work at the underage which they are doing. With us hurling at the highest level it should only want more kids to hurl."