Eight-time All-Ireland winner Michael Fennelly was keen to extend his inter-county hurling career into a 13th season, but simply couldn’t conquer his injury demons, according to Kilkenny manager Brian Cody.
“He’s been a huge servant to hurling, to Kilkenny and to the Shamrocks, an outstanding player and probably the top midfielder in the country for a number of years there” said Cody after his side’s three-point win over Offaly in the Bord na Móna Walsh Cup sem-final on Saturday.
“He was fighting the odds for a long time due to injury and it’s an even greater testament to him that he was still the player he was.
"Obviously he was on borrowed time and he knew that but he very much intended to try and give it another year, it just didn’t work out for him.”
Cody was delighted to see his team extend their Walsh Cup campaign for another week, and revealed that Walter Walsh and TJ Reid are both possible starters in the final next weekend while Richie Hogan is continuing his rehab but is “not ready to go out onto the hurling field yet”.
Offaly boss Kevin Martin is also dealing with a lengthy injury list but he expressed his satisfaction with his team’s competitive showing, and outlined how he hopes that he will have some reinforcements available in time for their trip to Croke Park to play Dublin on Saturday week.
“Sean Ryan is out for another couple of weeks, but we’ll have Joe Bergin and Dan Currams back.
"Damien Egan was concussed and had the flu, Paddy Murphy is back running out after having hamstring problems so there are a lot of guys who’ll be fighting for places” said the former All Star wing back.
"Every player wants to play in Croke Park. These guys are really working hard and if they stay working the way they are, we will improve”.
A ten-point haul for their starting half-forward line was crucial to Kilkenny’s cause as they held off a stiff Offaly challenge in Tullamore.
A goal from Conor Mahon and some excellent scores from Shane Kinsella and Thomas Geraghty gave Offaly a six-point lead after 25 minutes, but a scrappy Ger Malone strike pulled Kilkenny back into it and they rallied after halftime to take control of the contest.
S Kinsella 1-3, S Dooley 1-1 (1-0 pen, 0-1f), C Mahon 1-0, E Cahill 0-3f, T Geraghty 0-2, L Langton and O’Kelly (f) 0-1 each.
A Murphy 0-7 (6f), R Leahy & R Reid 0-4 each, G Malone 1-0, J Donnelly 0-2, J Walsh, B Sheehan & C Martin 0-1 each.
E Cahill; T Spain, D Shortt, B Conneely; P Delaney, P Camon, J Quinn; D King, T Geraghty; O Kelly, S Kinsella, C Egan; C Gath, C Mahon, L Langton.
S Dooley for Egan (HT), D Doughan for Shortt (51), C Cleary for Gath (54) C Molloy for Geraghty (58), P Rigney for Delaney (64), Egan for Mahon (67, blood).
E Murphy; J Holden, R Lennon, P Deegan; C Fogarty, C Buckley, P Walsh; G Malone, C O’Shea; J Donnelly, R Reid, R Leahy; B Sheehan, A Murphy, J Walsh.
E Morrissey for Malone (HT), C Martin for J Walsh (HT), C Delaney for Lennon (49), P Lyng for Leahy (54), M Keoghan for Sheehan (58).
Gearóid McGrath (Dublin)