Colin Fennelly prepared for warm ‘welcome’

Ballyshale Shamrocks(Kilkenny)v Kilmallock(Limerick): Tomorrow: Croke Park, 2pm TV: TG4

Colin Fennelly means it in the best way but there’s a predictability about Limerick teams that he admires.

Tomorrow, he expects Kilmallock to put it up to his Ballyhale Shamrocks side in the physical stakes like Limerick did to Kilkenny in last August’s All-Ireland semi-final.

He remembers the “welcome” Gavin O’Mahony gave to Henry Shefflin when the Kilkenny legend entered the action as a substitute. He doesn’t expect anything less now that they are wearing club colours.

“The Limerick lads are a tough, physical team. They always have been and going back to the All-Ireland semi-final it was a tough game but there wasn’t one bad pull throughout the game and you look forward to a good game of hurling. You’d actually be looking forward to it. You wouldn’t be too nervous because there are two good teams and whatever team plays better that day will win. You have to accept that.

“They are probably one of the most straightforward teams. You know what to expect from them: they give good hard games always. They never change their style. You see the Dubs — I think are hand-passing the ball more now whereas Limerick are straightforward and probably a bit like ourselves. We’re straightforward too.”

That may be so but Ballyhale broke from tradition when they took in Tipperary men, Waterford-based Colm Bonnar and Andy Moloney, as managers. Having just taken the position, Bonnar stepped away from Ballygunner with Moloney as a selector early last year and were confirmed as the Shamrocks management team just days later.

Bonnar will be hoping to make amends for losing last Wednesday’s Fitzgibbon Cup final with WIT. “You wouldn’t notice too much that they are Tipperary men,” smiles Fennelly. “They don’t bring it up too often. We have a bit of banter every so often.

“The way they take to the game is brilliant. Andy Moloney has a lot of experience between colleges and club, county, the whole lot. Colm Bonnar is absolutely brilliant. He was out with WIT. He was there with them on a Saturday night (drawn Fitzgibbon Cup final), a late night with them into extra-time, and then he was there with us on Sunday morning training us. Their commitment and enthusiasm is fantastic and you can see that when you see things like that. It gives you a bit of a boost as well.

“Henry Shefflin was in the same class as Andy in college so they would have had a lot of experience. TJ and Eoin Reid, a lot of them were down in WIT and would have been managed by Colm Bonnar.

“TJ said they are absolutely brilliant and we need to have them in the club.!

Fennelly was only 20 when Ballyhale saw off Portumna but he had been concerned they might not reach this stage again. “Definitely because you’re always thinking the team is getting older. It’s a long time and Henry is in his last few years and Michael Fennelly there as well is struggling with injuries the whole time. It’s a big thing getting to an All-Ireland final. The first job is to get out of the county and we’ve been struggling the last couple of years.”

However, Fennelly is inspired by some of the development work being done under Bonnar and Moloney’s watch.

“It’s actually the first year I think we’ll get a few more chances because I don’t know what Colm Bonnar and Andy Moloney did but there are so many young lads after coming back into the club and we’re having 15-on-15 challenge matches in the club, which I haven’t had since I was a young chap. These lads coming through, it’s fantastic.”


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