Losing All-Ireland to Tipp was hell, recalls Michael Fennelly

Losing All-Ireland to Tipp was hell, recalls Michael Fennelly
In attendance at the unveiling of Ballygowan Activ+ as the new Official Fitness Partner of the GAA/GPA is former Kilkenny hurler and All-Ireland winner Michael Fennelly at Croke Park in Dublin. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Former All-Ireland winning captain Michael Fennelly has advised Kilkenny’s players to tap into the tears and emotion of 2016 as they prepare to face Tipperary once more.

Fennelly was ever-present throughout 2016, but missed the final defeat to Tipp after rupturing his Achilles in the semi-final replay win over Waterford. He said the Kilkenny players openly wept after that nine-point defeat

as they “went through hell”.

Nine of those who lined out that day started last month’s semi-final win over Limerick. Fennelly reckons they should open up their 2016 hurt locker and use it for motivation.

“I think that pain should drive all of them not to want to go through that again,” said eight-time All-Ireland winner Fennelly.

“A lot of them were personally very upset over that game. A lot of them went to bed early that night in the CityWest. A lot of them were crying and stuff that night, they went through hell, to be honest. They took it very personally.

So I’m hoping they tap into that because that pain is a driver. That would drive me, if I was looking back on that, not to let that happen again. And it’s not even about winning, it’s about your performance. If you can sort your own performance, then you have your job done, basically, and you’re hoping everyone else will look after their performance the same way. So hopefully they will tap into that, because that’s important, I think.

Kilkenny conceded 2-29 that day and their full-back line in particular coughed up 2-21 to Tipp’s rampant full-forward trio of Seamus Callanan, John O’Dwyer, and John McGrath.

Joey Holden marked Callanan, who scored 0-13 for Tipp, while Paul Murphy and Padraig Walsh are also primed to start again in defence.

Fennelly said that while those players should remember the hurt of 2016, they will also realise that it wasn’t entirely their fault .

“The ball that was being sent in to the Tipp full-forward line was outrageous,” said Fennelly. “Shane Prendergast was on Seamie Callanan as well for a while. Seamie was going back and forth, roaming around from corner-forward to full-forward to corner-forward. And every time he’d run, the ball would literally land in front of him, he’d catch it and swing it over the bar straight away. It was happening so fast.

“I think it’ll be motivation, and for the whole team. Like, what did our half-forward line win in terms of percentages of puck-outs that day? I’d say they got an awful doing. So it’s everyone.

“And I think if you had a full-back line from any other team there, the same thing would have happened.”

Asked what the scenes were like afterwards, Fennelly said it was desolation.

It was bad, yeah, the worst I’ve ever seen, to be honest. And it carried on, it carried on through the evening. It wasn’t just the dressing room, it carried on to the players’ lounge, it carried on to the CityWest. I was on crutches at the time, I was after getting an operation.

“I felt horrendously bad for the lads. It’s a place you don’t want to be. But you can’t get away from it, you have to go through the routine afterwards of dinners, meeting people, the homecoming, and it’s somewhere you just don’t want to be.”

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