TJ Reid was tight-lipped about the identity of the “ex-Kilkenny hurler” who helped Ballyhale Shamrocks prepare for the All-Ireland club final against Borris-Ileigh on Sunday.
Ballyhale drafted in an outside player to help them cope with Borris’ sweeper, but Reid wasn’t being drawn on his identity following the Kilkenny side’s victory.
“In terms of preparation, the last two weeks we brought in an ex-county hurler to play a sweeper role for training so we’re well prepared for that.
“It’s confidential — he’s an ex-player. In terms of preparation we prepared very well, the gameplan was to bring him in. It takes great character for an ex-Kilkenny hurler to come into Ballyhale and to play that role.”
Reid described the game as “relentless”.
“It was a tough game, very physical and intense, relentless — that was Borris-Ileigh’s gameplan, to keep on top of us and defend as much as they could. At times it was hard for us to create scores and space.
“We dug deep, it probably wasn’t the best of games for ourselves, a few missed scores and placed balls, we probably weren’t happy with ourselves at half time but once you win you don’t care, you’ve the All-Ireland achieved.
“Borris probably started with good intensity in the game, we probably were a little slow to react to that but I think we developed ourselves very nicely, got into the game and in the last 15 minutes we probably dominated.
“In the second half we were probably looking comfortable and then late on it was panic stations again, Brendan Maher had the chance for them at the end and then it was over.”
Reid was mindful of the bereavements suffered in Ballyhale in recent years by the Doyle and Aylward families: “In the last two years we’ve had a lot of accidents and tragedies in the Doyle and Aylward families — and in Borris-Ileigh — so it was great for both clubs and parishes to get to an All-Ireland final.
“Both teams could have dropped their heads but they didn’t.”
Sunday makes it eight titles for Ballyhale in total, but the Kilkenny club championship draws are being made tonight for 2020.
“Eight (titles)? I’ve only five — when you’re playing, you’re not looking back in the 1970s, you’re just looking at the next year.
“I’m not quite sure where we’ll be tonight, but it’s January, obviously, we’ll take a good break. In terms of management, we’ll see what’s going on. We’ll enjoy this, it’s a special time and a special group of players. Ballyhale went through enough in the last year, so going back on the bus to see the supporters, kids, neighbours, loved ones will be great.”
Conahy Shamrocks (junior) and Tullaroan (intermediate) made it a clean sweep for Kilkenny in club action last weekend but Reid could remember less successful seasons: “In 2011, O’Loughlin Gaels, John Lockes and Dicksboro lost those finals, so last weekend was great. I didn’t look at the games Saturday night because when you’re playing you’re focused on that.
“It’s great they all achieved success, I’m sure the Conahy and Tullaroan lads are celebrating, and 2020 looks bright for Kilkenny in terms of the club scene, and it’s good Brian (Cody, Kilkenny manager) will be picking from that. So it looks good.”