Mikey Boyle, entrusted with the role of captain for 2017, is one of four bothers who’ll tog at Austin Stack Park (throw-in 3pm) as Ballyduff bid to secure a record-breaking 25th Kerry SHC title — they’re currently joint top of the roll of honour with Kilmoyley.
The Boyle family are chasing their own milestone, with Mikey, Padraig, Aidan, and Liam looking to swell the family’s collection of silverware.
Dad Liam is the proud owner of 10 county medals stretching across three decades, while of the six brothers, Colm, now retired, has seven, Kenneth, also retired, has five, with Mikey, Aidan, and Liam boasting four each. Completing the lot is Padraig who has three county SHC medals to his name. That brings the family total to 37.
“It would be nice to get to 40,” says Mikey ahead of Sunday’s contest.
They came off second best in last year’s decider to Kilmoyley. Kilmoyley were on course to reach a third consecutive final when leading Ballyduff by 0-10 to 0-4 in last month’s semi-final. According to Mikey, a few harsh truths were dished out underneath the main stand in Tralee at half-time.
“There were some loud voices and we were told we had been rubbish. We had agreed before the game that we would not give away any silly frees, but we never believe in making things easy for ourselves. We go out, concede nine frees and Daniel Collins thinks it’s Christmas.
“We left ourselves a mountain to climb. We said we would cut out the fouling, increase our intensity and just man up. Every player, to be fair, bought into it and we won the game in that second half.”
Central to their revival was the performance of minor Jack O’Sullivan who was making his first championship start for the seniors.
“Jack’s emergence has been a real bonus for Ballyduff,” insists manager and Blackrock native Bobby Thornhill.
“I remember watching him training last year in another corner of the field and I said, ‘oh my God, who is this guy?’ I was thinking about it driving home and when I made inquiries, I was told he was a footballer. I said to myself that if I have my way he will be playing hurling as well. He has been a great find and has a bright future.”
Their opponents Lixnaw are on the hunt for a ninth title and a first since 2014. They’ve never beaten Ballyduff in the decider, losing the six final meetings between the pair. There are plenty of survivors from the 2010 and ‘12 classes, both of which fell at the final hurdle to Ballyduff.
“I had no idea that was the case until someone told me last week,” said 20-year old Cork IT accountancy student and Lixnaw captain John Buckley.
“That stat, I can tell you, will not be in the back of our minds on Sunday. A lot of the younger players in our team do not fear Ballyduff. We respect them and know it’s going to be a battle, but we have no hang-ups going into it. It will be decided on the day — not what happened 20 years ago or whatever.”
Coaching Lixnaw is former Limerick hurler Mark Foley. He reckons the club’s poor final record against Ballyduff, contrary to Buckley’s assertion, will serve as motivation for the older players on the squad.
“It’s obviously there with them, so, maybe, it’s a chance for them to rewrite history and change the script a little bit.”