Saturday brought with it a special result for the Mullinavat footballers as they advanced to the quarter-final of the Leinster intermediate championship following a 2-06 to 1-07 win against Bracknagh in John Locke Park.
A late goal from substitute Padraic Gahan secured Michael Aylward’s side’s place in the last-eight where they will meet Shandonagh on Saturday, November 5th in a Kilkenny venue once again.
Aylward, who led the club to the senior county title with a defeat of Thomastown in the decider, told Scoreline after the game that the sport needs to be treated with more respect within the county if it is to flourish.
He also spoke about the win against Bracknagh, the importance of captain Michael Malone and the belief within the panel that they can achieve something special.
On Saturday’s victory, which saw them trail by five points at half-time, he said: “We didn’t play at all in the first half and we put the foot on the pedal in the second half and it’s just unbelievable.
“We went back to the basics after half-time. We made sure that we didn’t make any mistakes and didn’t kick the ball away needlessly.
“That was key and thankfully it worked out for us in terms of our performance and the result.”
The deficit was not cut until midway through the second half when captain Michael Malone rounded off a brilliant team move by slotting past the Offaly side’s goalkeeper Brian Keogh for Mullinavat’s first goal.
That goal acted as the catalyst for the comeback victory and Aylward paid tribute to the impact of Malone after the full-time whistle.
“That goal was critical. I don’t know how you’d describe him (Malone). He’s just a phenomenal player for the club and for the county. His attitude and hunger just drives the lads on and they feed off it. He’s a vital cog in our machine.”
While he insists they are not the favourites to claim the provincial crown amongst most people, the Mullinavat boss is positive about the spirit within the group.
“We’re complete underdogs in this competition. We’re hungry and we want to go far.
“Everyone outside of our camp doesn’t expect us to do anything but we have a great belief in the dressing room and we want to do something special in the Leinster championship.”
He also touched upon Kilkenny’s All-Ireland junior victory earlier this year.
“The lads have a great passion for football. I’m only a small part of it but that love of the sport is the most important thing.
“We had a lot of players involved with Kilkenny when they won the All-Ireland and they had a brilliant run. It was completely unexpected and they played some marvelous football.
“It was great for the lads who are interested in the county and they got their reward.”
Aylward lastly pointed to some questionable decision making by those overlooking football in the county that has led to it receiving a “lack of respect.”
“There are a lot of clubs interested in playing football but it’s not respected as it should be within the county. You get a fixtures list for hurling at the start of the year.
“For football, they’ll think about fixing it in February and next thing you’re playing in the league one week later. They want to run it off as quick as they can. It’s not right.”