Greg Lally fully convinced Gort can stun Ballyhale

AIB All-Ireland Club SHC semi-final: Gort v Ballyhale: Gort hurling captain Greg Lally is the team’s indisputable leader since the emigration of former captain Andy Coen to Canada last year and he will be expected to lead the side from centre-back in tomorrow’s All-Ireland Club SHC semi-final against Ballyhale Shamrocks.

Having googled his image; — to be sure, to be sure, I knew exactly what he looked like. However, the first impression I had of him, when we shook hands, was of his immensely powerful and square shoulders.

My initial assumption that they were honed from hard work in a gym was incorrect.

His profile was sculpted by heavy plastering work in his late teens and early 20s. .”After school, I followed my dad into plastering and learnt the trade. I worked as a plasterer for a few years before all that work dried up four or five years ago. Luckily, I got a job with Medtronic in Galway city and have been there since and love it.

“A more sedentary job suits hurling far better as after a days’ hard plastering, you’d only be fit to sit on the couch for the evening. In Medtronic we work from 7.30am to 4pm. It is a different environment entirely to the building business. You go in to work in clean clothes, gown up, and come out in clean clothes. Hard manual work all day is incredibly tiring and hard on the body. My Dad has had both his hips replaced, and he is only 54.

“We have no doubt but that plastering all his life was definitely a factor. To compete at top club hurling now, you have to put in a lot of hours at skills and stick-work.

“If I was still plastering, I’d be wrecked going training. I don’t think I would be able to compete at the level required, to be honest.”

And that level of performance will need to be a good few notches higher tomorrow when his team face one of the best club sides in the country. Ballyhale. The Kilkenny club boast so many household hurling names such as Henry Shefflin, James “Cha” Fitzpatrick, Michael Fennelly, TJ Reid and Colin Fennelly.

The bookies have Ballyhale as big favourites. Lally acknowledges his side are huge outsiders but is still upbeat about their chances. “Very few people expected us to beat Portumna either, so we are well used to being underdogs. All we have been doing over the past few weeks is focusing on ourselves, and how we need to perform individually and as a group.”

Lally’s younger brother Gavin is the club’s keeper and there are eight sets of brothers on the panel which makes it a very tight group.

“We are all very close and things are going very well for the club. A lot of younger lads are involved this year and we have six minors on the panel which augurs well for the future.

“The management team of Gerry Spellman, Mike Finn and Mattie Murphy have done fantastic work with us over the past 14 months and the improvement and progression of all the hurlers on our panel has been very positive. We are really enjoying our hurling and our training and that is always a good sign.”

Greg and Gavin’s dad Gerry was on the Gort team in 1984 beaten by Ballyhale in the All-Ireland final after a replay. A piece of history Gort don’t want repeated.

“A lot of our players this weekend have very strong connections with the Gort team that won county titles in 1981 and 1984. Josie Harte and Sylvie Linnane both have sons on the team tomorrow.

“However, that defeat is a long time ago now and is irrelevant. We have to try and go out and make out own history. Ballyhale are a serious outfit. They have won five all-Ireland titles for a reason. We respect them, but we are going out on Saturday with a lot of belief in our own ability. It will take a massive performance from us to win. However, it is one we believe we are capable of delivering.”

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