FROM the time Ballyhale Shamrocks made the breakthrough in the 1970s, the Fennelly name has become synonymous with Kilkenny hurling.
Seven brothers started on the first Ballyhale team to win the All-Ireland club title in 1980, four of whom subsequently started in an All-Ireland decider in 1987 for the county.
Well, it’s Fennelly time again in Kilkenny. Saturday in Semple Stadium, in the opening match of the 2011 Allianz Hurling League, brothers Michael and Colin were to the fore as the Cats got a measure of revenge for last September’s All-Ireland final against Tipperary
The switch of All Star Michael from centre-forward to midfield in the 23rd minute was the pivotal move in the game. Kilkenny went from five points down to three points up before the break and the goal scored by Colin immediately after half-time was a blow from which Tipp never recovered.
Afterwards, a pleased Brian Cody was fulsome in his praise of the brothers. “Michael Fennelly made a big difference at midfield and John Mulhall (with whom he switched) played very, very well in the half-forward line as well. That was an obvious change that was there for us at any stage. Michael is capable of doing a good job at centre-forward but himself and Michael Rice were very strong at midfield as the game wore on.”
And Colin? “Colin’s a good player, I’d be very happy with the way he played. Apart from the goal I thought he worked very hard, came back and chased down players very well. He’s a very quick and committed player.”
High praise indeed, considering the source, but safe praise also; given their pedigree, neither of those boys are liable to let such talk go to their heads.
For Michael, who picked up the man-of-the-match award for his efforts, this was just another day at the office.
He said: “It’s good to be back in action. Conditions were terrible but at least it wasn’t cold, and the pitch was in prime condition for the throw-in. A bit of rain fell during the game but we can’t complain. It wasn’t looking good for us after the first 10 minutes — I was thinking back to Croke Park in September and hoping they wouldn’t bang in three or four more goals again! Thank God they didn’t. We got to grips with them and started knocking over a few points. “But it’s very early in the season, you can’t read anything into this. We were missing a few lads, they were missing a few – sure Eoin Kelly only got married on Friday, and I’m sure most of them would have been at that. It’s nice to be back hurling, and with all the fellas that were missing, a few lads got a run that mightn’t have otherwise.”
Including baby brother Colin, of course. “Yeah, he did very well for his first league game, got a good goal and he’ll be happy enough with that. But he’s young enough still.” Yes, young enough to still make an impression with this mighty Kilkenny team as they attempt to come back from that All-Ireland loss, and good enough too, as he showed when taking that goal.
Consider, though, those who were not available to Kilkenny , as listed off by Cody. “Henry (Shefflin) is still out, as are John Tennyson and Richie Power. Eoin Larkin had a slight operation on Friday, PJ Ryan (keeper) has been injured for a while, while the O’Loughlin’s players are still out due to club commitments. Noel Hickey was sick but we might have him back in the running for next week.”
Frightening when you consider that for a moment.
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