Kerry manager Fintan O’Connor regrets highlighting that Shane Conway was “singled out” in last month’s Allianz Division 2A final defeat to Westmeath.
Kildare native O’Connor expressed his disappointment following the game in Ennis that the recently-crowned Fitzgibbon Cup hurler of the year was not given more protection by the officials.
He maintains Conway receives rough treatment but appreciates the timing of his remarks could have been better. “It’s not just him in particular - every county has a player who is looked at like that.
“It’s hard to describe… he’s a victim of his own success at the minute.
“If we play anyone they’re looking at Shane and nine times out of 10 he’s nearly fouled or fouled and that takes a lot away from his game.
“That’s difficult to balance it with getting a free because he’s not really getting to express himself and it stops us playing a little bit.
“I regret what I said because I didn’t want to come across as a sore loser and reading back what I said it might have read like that when that wasn’t my point at all.
“Westmeath fully deserved to win that game. I need to learn to grow up and say nothing because every team has a player like Shane. In Offaly, it would have been Shane Dooley and Joe Bergin over the years. It’s just the fact Shane is 20 or 21 and 10 or 11 stone and he’s a young fella but such a nice, young fella too and he gets belts and you fear he could get one bad one and that would be his summer gone. Nobody wants that.”
O’Connor can’t praise the Lixnaw man enough.
“In fairness to him, he’s a very grounded young fella. I think it spoke volumes about him that his UCC team-mates were all willing to go to his home place with him after they won the Fitzgibbon.
“From my perspective, he’s an unbelievably easy player to deal with. He just wants to hurl and train. In fairness, there are players of great quality in the McDonagh Cup like (Neil) McManus in Antrim, (Derek) McNicholas in Westmeath, Ross King and Picky Maher in Laois. They’re all serious hurlers and each county has their own stars.”
Conway is one of O’Connor’s student players who the manager would have preferred knew their McDonagh Cup schedule before this week.
“It’s very hard for students to plan their lives around matches and the details of them aren’t out until a few weeks before the competiton begins. We have players studying in Cork and Limerick right up to the start of the Joe McDonagh Cup and it would have been nice to get a bit more notice about it.
“We have known for the last week or 10 days that we would be playing in Antrim on the first Saturday of the competition so that has helped but the more notice the better.”
Fixtures in advance is just one means of improving the lot of McDonagh Cup hurlers, O’Connor feels.
“I said to the GPA at the start of the year that there should be Joe McDonagh players going on the All-Stars tour. Players in the likes of Kerry and Westmeath deserve that little carrot.
‘Tweek’ (John Griffin) went on one before (2014) and it was one of the highlights of his career.
“So the more billing the Joe McDonagh gets the better because there are some very good hurlers in it and some very good games. When you’re directly involved you’re afraid to say how good it is in case you fall flat on you face. That’s typical Ireland, you just want to avoid saying anything good about yourselves just in case it comes back to bite you but take ourselves out of it and the Joe McDonagh Cup is a fine competition.”
O’Connor must do without Fionán Mackessy, Niall O’Mahony and Eric Leen who are heading to the US for the summer.
Meanwhile, Munster GAA have confirmed stand tickets for Clare’s home games against Tipperary and Cork won’t go on general sale.
As with all tickets for Waterford’s two matches in Walsh Park, they will only be available via participating clubs and counties.
2019 Joe McDonagh Cup fixtures
Saturday, May 11: Antrim v Kerry, Dunloy 5pm, Offaly v Laois, Bord na Mona O’Connor Park 7pm; Saturday,
May 18: Laois v Antrim, O’Moore Park 3pm, Westmeath v Offaly, TEG Cusack Park 3pm;
May 25: Westmeath v Kerry, TEG Cusack Park 3pm;
June 1: Offaly v Antrim, Bord na Mona O’Connor Park 3pm; Kerry v Laois, Austin Stack Park 3pm, Antrim v Westmeath, Dunloy 3pm;
June 15: Kerry v Laois, Austin Stack Park 3pm, Laois v Westmeath, O’Moore Park 3pm.