AFTER Limerick’s opening game of the Allianz Hurling League Gavin O’Mahony was contacted on social media by Ollie Moran.
The message was simple: “kiss goodbye to your days of defending”.
An All Star centre forward in 2007 Moran was commenting on O’Mahony’s Man of the Match display in the drawn encounter with Waterford as the club tactic of playing him in the No11 position extended to the inter-county scene.
Former Kilmallock senior hurling manager Tony Considine was first to switch O’Mahony from the centre of defence to leader of the attack but the move was never permanent until Ger O’Loughlin, Mike Heelan and Adrian O’Brien took the reins for 2014.
For O’Mahony it’s a move that revitalised his career, admitting that the customary role at No6 had become “stale” and “mentally wore him down”.
“It was a new lease of life,” admits O’Mahony the Kilmallock star ahead of the St Patrick’s Day All Ireland club final against Kilkenny’s Ballyhale.
“It brought fresh thinking and needed a fresh frame of mind to games. It had got a bit stale for me in the last couple of years - playing the same position, doing the same thing. Mentally that wore me down a bit,” he revealed.
“I played a couple of games there last season but we reverted back and changed even within a few games. In fairness to the lads this year they said they were going to give it a proper go - it’s given other lads a chance to move into positions and take responsibility and they have responded and its brilliant,” outlined O’Mahony.
“It did take a couple of games to settle in there but I would consider it the hardest place to play in - nine times out of of 10 you are probably on their best player or perceived to be one of the opposition’s best players and trying to nullify that and also contribute to make sure you pick off some scores for the team.”
But centre forward is nothing new for O’Mahony.
“The majority of my underage hurling was in the forwards - Paddy Kelly has been preaching for years that I am a forward and I hope he is proved right on March 17,” smiled O’Mahony.
“I played in goals for a couple of championship matches when I was 15-16. I did corner forward and half forward and midfield. I didn’t go in the full back line - I think that’s about the only place I haven’t played,” he outlined.
“It’s about getting a balance and that’s more of it than me playing in any certain position - you want to make sure that your are getting 75% out of everyone rather than 100% out of five or six. I have definitely enjoyed it playing alongside the likes of Robbie Egan and others. It has been fresh for them to see me up there and visa versa in the backs they are happy to see me gone out of there and not roaring and shouting at them!”
According to O’Mahony the key to their All Ireland run is the even spread of responsibility across the team.
“The so called county players or whatever bracket you put them in would nine times out of 10 be nullified by the opposition. You need the other lads to step up and they have and have performed unbelievably well and I think that has been the beauty of the run that we have been on - there has been no real person that we have been reliant on and that’s very rewarding to look through the team and say if a fella has an off day that another lad will step up. That’s what Kilkenny have been able to do for so long - they have so many players than can pop up to win a game,” outlined the Kilmallock man.
“Just to improve a slight bit every day is our mantra - you have to be a bit better than the last day to get over the next hurdle. We were never too flashy or never broke away from any team, we always seemed to do it the hard way and crawl over the line.”
And, right there is the difference.
“In the past Kilmallock would have gone out and won games by 10-12 points and then get caught in the next round and that was frustrating but now its about taking a step forward each time and not a step back.”
“We haven’t put a whole pile of thought into the opposition, which we haven’t done all year - we try and make sure we are right and focused on our own job. The best thing we can do is get a really good performance out of 12-13 of our players and hope that is good enough to get us over the line and if its not there won’t be any shame on us after that because we have prepared really well and trained really hard.”