High intensity allowed by GAA refs in Kilkenny has given Cats an edge

Ballyhale Shamrocks joint manager Colm Bonnar says the different approach taken by hurling referees in Kilkenny has contributed to the Cats’ success at intercounty level, believing club competition can be so intense, it’s "nearly a relief" for players to return to inter-county fare.

High intensity allowed by GAA refs in Kilkenny has given Cats an edge

Bonnar, who has experience as a player with Cashel King Cormacs and Tipperary, as well as filling management roles with Waterford and Wexford, says: “It’s definitely more physical here.

“When you have the likes of TJ (Reid), Henry Shefflin, Michael and Colin Fennelly, they have to take a lot of punishment in club games.

“The tackling — with the body, the harassment — the intensity is huge and the referees take a different approach compared to other counties.

“Certainly if a player flicks with a hurley to get the ball, if there’s any sound of an impact of his hurley on another player’s then the referee may give a free in other counties.

“Here it’s different, the referee lets them get on with it and the players do, in fairness.”

Bonnar says club sides outside Kilkenny often come to Ballyhale for challenges “to get that edge into their play”.

“We’d have played a good few teams from outside the county in challenge games, and they like to play Kilkenny teams for the physicality of the challenge. They like to get that edge into their own play.

“Having seen a good few games now myself from being involved with Ballyhale I think it does give Kilkenny players an advantage when it comes to intercounty action.

“I’ve seen some games in Kilkenny where I’d say it’s nearly a relief to players to go back to intercounty after them.

“It’s pure high intensity, with good hurlers who are physically strong enough to take it and dish it out. So your hurling has to be at a high level.

“I’d say that’s what’s helped to give Kilkenny an edge over the last 15 or so years at inter county level.”

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Discover the

Install our free app today

Available on