IN 2015 GER Aylward was a breakout star for the Kilkenny hurlers.
By the end of the season he had an All-Ireland medal and an All-Star award populating his trophy cabinet.
His debut yielded a stunning scoring salvo that summer, a tally of 3-5 in the pulverising of Wexford. The bar had been set at an inordinately high level yet while there was no more green flags raised that summer, he chipped in regularly with points from his corner-forward berth.
If that was the peak, he wasn’t to know that the fall was coming. The following January in an All-Ireland club semi-final he felt ‘a dunt inside of the knee’ and a torn cruciate was confirmed after.
That wrote off the 2016 season and 2017 proved tricky to regain his form. This season saw him shuttle in and out of the starting side as well, more injury setbacks prompting frustration for the Glenmore man.
There were signals of recovery in popping up with a brace of points against Galway in the draw Leinster final and booting home a goal in the replay.
He’ll be crossing paths with the Tribesmen again on Sunday but in rather different environs. For the first time an inter-county hurling match will be played in Australia, the two counties meeting in Sydney to compete for the inaugural Wild Geese Trophy.
“Yeah (it’s been) very frustrating,” reflected Aylward.
“Hopefully everything is alright now again. I’m going well and I’m hoping I can stay right for the coming season, touch wood.
“The hamstring went straight away the minute I came back. I nearly pulled it off the bone. That was another six weeks out. And then I did my shoulder. It was just all sorts of hardships after coming back from the knee.
“Hopefully this year now I’ll be able to get a good run at it again. Yeah, (2015) it was a great season. I’m trying to get back to that now because I haven’t been there for the last two years. Getting back to that level is what I’m aiming for, yeah.
“I have to focus first on getting my place on the panel and then just drive it on from there.”
The landscape has shifted for Kilkenny since that 2015 victory. Sunday’s opponents Galway have claimed the Bob O’Keeffe Cup for the last two seasons and contested the last two All-Ireland deciders.
“We were there doing that for a few years and now Galway are doing it. We have to get back to the standard where Galway have been for the last two years.
“This is the start of the new season in terms of trying to do that and hopefully we can push it on again in 2019.”
This weekend’s trip will see Aylward return to familiar territory.
“I was working out here in 2014 so I’ve a good few lads to meet up with. I was working out here in 2014 so I’ve a good few lads to meet up with.
“There are a good few lads from Glenmore over here at the minute and lads I would have went to school as well. There’s around 10 or 12 lads I have to meet so it should be a great trip.
“It’ll be nice to spend some time with the other Kilkenny lads and hopefully the match goes well too.”
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