THERE’S nothing like the stretch in the evenings to get the soul hungry for competitive hurling, and this Saturday the people of Kilmallock travel to Mullingar in the hope that their senior side enjoys a tasty victory in the All-Ireland club semi-final.
Kilmallock will take on Ulster champions Portaferry of County Down in the first game of a double-header in Cusack Park in Mullingar, in a bid to book their place in the club final in Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day.
“The preparations are going very well,” said John O’Donnell, Kilmallock club secretary this Monday.
“The mood is positive – not only in the pitch but also in the town. It’s amazing the amount of people who would be wishing you well. “I was up at the play in Ballinvreena last night and the amount of people who would only know that I’m O’Donnell from Kilmallock who were there saying: “Best of luck next Saturday!”
The Kilmallock tie will have a 2pm start with the game between the Galway and Kilkenny champions, Gort and Ballyhale Shamrocks, at 3.45.
“The players are all doing fine - they are in great spirits. They put in a good, hard training session on Saturday and Sunday,” said John.
With the side without star inter-county player Gavin O’Mahony the team, John said, will have to dig deep to eke out a victory.
“Some people would have put Gavin as man of the match in the Waterford Crystal Cup when he played as centre-forward on Saturday night against Cork. That lad is a huge loss to us. We can replace him alright but you are still trying to replace an inter-county player which is a huge ask,” he said.
“With all due respect to Gavin, they have been conditioned, knowing they won’t have him on Saturday,” he added.
Kilmallock last contested a semi-final in the 1994-1995 season when they were beaten by Birr of Offaly. Their last All-Ireland club final appearance was on St Patrick’s Day in 1993 when they were beaten by Sarsfields of Galway.
Both of Saturday’s games will be televised live on TG4’s GAA Beo.
“I think there is going to be a big following from south Limerick and north Cork,” said John, “particularly with the Limerick hurlers’ success on Saturday night and the footballers’ win on Sunday over Sligo in Kilmallock.”
“People have seen some fantastic hurling from Kilmallock this season and I think people are expecting more of that from them so they are willing to follow them. You would be hoping that it will be a great battle and Kilmallock will win.”