Fennelly: Final 'same as any other game'

Last year's All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship winning captain Michael Fennelly says he will be treating tomorrow's final against Tipperary like any other game, as Kilkenny's quest for a record breaking All-Ireland five in-a-row reaches the final hurdle.

Last year's All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship winning captain Michael Fennelly says he will be treating tomorrow's final against Tipperary like any other game, as Kilkenny's quest for a record breaking All-Ireland five in-a-row reaches the final hurdle.

"It's another game. Obviously an All-Ireland final - big day. We are after getting to the last step of the year, the last game, so it's just the same as any other game," he said.

"The five in-a-row isn't really an issue for myself. I'm just thinking that it's All-Ireland final day and getting the number eight or number nine jersey is my priority."

And Fennelly, who will start tomorrow's decider in the Cats midfield, says that a starting role cannot be taken for granted - given the competitive nature of the squad.

Twelve months ago Fennelly was forced to watch the Kilkenny-Tipperary clash from the sidelines, until he was sprung from the bench with 19 minutes remaining. He knows just how hard it can be when you are spectating from the stands.

"It is heartache on the sideline watching on and you are obviously hoping to get in," he admitted.

"You are hoping to get the nod, hoping to get in there and take some part in the game.

"For myself it's all about the first 15 really, but if you get a chance to get in there at all it is a great experience and a great privilege."

Fennelly hopes TJ Reid will be following in the footsteps of fellow Ballyhale clubmen such as himself, Henry Shefflin and James 'Cha' Fitzpatrick in lifting the Liam MacCarthy Cup just after 5pm tomorrow afternoon.

"I've been talking to TJ once or twice during the year about different things such as the speeches - but he is fine and is well able to handle that.

"He is not making an issue on that either and is just putting it to one side.

"Obviously there will be a slight bit of pressure on him coming into the All-Ireland final, but I'll talk to him and he''l be fine, he will just put it to one side."

Exactly a year on from their last Championship win over Tipperary and little has changed in the Kilkenny camp, Fennelly says it is as well oiled an operation as the supporters and the media may think.

"It definitely is - it's a new fresh year, and as if we didn't win the All-Ireland last year to be honest.

"The competition (for places) in Kilkenny is great. Thirty lads and at least two players going for the one spot.

"You are just taking a fresh approach every year. It's not as if we are on top and then going the whole time. A fresh year where we want to get to the All-Ireland final.

"We are here now and playing our local rivals in Tipperary and obviously after last year they might think they were hard done by and it will probably add to the whole build-up to the game and hopefully add to a great game.

"Tipp are after reshuffling their team this year which adds to their quality. They are able to introduce five players in any game that are of value to them. I think they will be stronger this year than 12 months ago."

A clash of two teams from different provinces, but certainly a pairing where the rivalry is incredibly keen.

"Definitely - on the border of Urlingford and Johnstown, it's certainly hotting up," added Fennelly.

"I'd know a few Tipperary lads who are very passionate about their hurling. Tipp and Kilkenny in the '80s and '90s was very big.

"There will certainly be a big build-up and we are really hoping for a good one."

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