Diarmuid O’Flynn

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Munster selection caps off meteoric rise for Nolan

Kerry duo’s selection for the Martin Donnelly interpro series is a huge boost, writes Diarmuid O’Flynn

When people think of the Railway Cup they think of giants like Christy Ring, Mick Mackey and Jimmy Doyle.

It’s not all about the marquee names, however. This weekend, on the Munster panel that faces Leinster in Nowlan Park in the semi-final of the Martin Donnelly interprovincial series, there are two Kerry hurlers, Tom Murnane (Kilmoyley) and Shane Nolan (Crotta O’Neill’s).

In a county where the big-ball game reigns supreme this is welcome recognition for the strides being made in recent years in hurling within the Kingdom. For the Christy Ring champions, having a couple of their top players rubbing shoulders with the cream of Munster is a huge boost.

And for Nolan this caps off a meteoric rise. It started in 2009 when he was a member of both the minor and U21 B All-Ireland-winning Kerry teams, which led to him being called up to the senior panel that same year. The following season Kerry again won the U21B, reached the Christy Ring final but lost with Shane again on both teams. Last year, however there was success on the double with Christy Ring and U21B titles claim and Shane was honoured as player-of-the-year in the Christy Ring championship.

All those honours then, but should Munster win tomorrow and go on to capture its first title since 2008, this one could top the lot. “It means a lot, My uncle was on the panel in 69, Todd Nolan — I think he won a medal that year (he did, as a sub, was there again in 1983, a starter at full-forward, but lost). I don’t know if either Tom or myself will get a game — hopefully we will, and it will be great if we do.”

Already though it’s been a very positive experience for Shane. “We’ve done two training-sessions, one in Nenagh, one in Clonmel, with a training-match in Thurles in between against Tipperary. Liam (Sheedy, Munster manager) was there, and Eamon O’Shea who trained Tipperary to the All-Ireland title a couple of years ago. He is a very good trainer.”

Better than John Meyler, the Kerry boss? “I wouldn’t say that!” he laughs, “But he is very good.”

He’s learning from his few days with the big guys, is Shane. “I’m really enjoying it; I think you ‘up’ your performance, you train better and play better than you would normally, because of the fellas around you. Your touch has to be sharper, everything you do has to be faster.”

Don’t misinterpret any of this. Shane Nolan isn’t on the Munster panel as a learning experience, as a sop to either him or to Kerry hurling. He’s there on merit, a proven talent, his 13 points from Crotta O’Neill’s total of 15 in a losing effort in last year’s Kerry SHC final the latest in a long list of scoring heroics. He’s a hurling fanatic, a hard and dedicated trainer, but unfortunately for him he finds himself with more time on his hands nowadays to perfect his arts than he would like.

“I’m not working at the moment, I’d like to go back to college. , Only for the hurling there’d be nothing for me.”

Christy Ring — yes, a giant, but the Railway Cup, the Martin Donnelly Interprovincial Championship as now constituted, is just as much about Clare’s Jimmy Smyth, about Laois’s Tommy ‘The Boy Wonder’ Murphy, about Shane Nolan.

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