Kilkenny have developed quite a reputation for their dressing room speeches on All-Ireland final day.
Michael Fennelly certainly appears the most prominent candidate to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Noel Hickey and Jackie Tyrrell.
But the injured midfielder is hesitant about giving a cúpla focal at Croke Park on Sunday.
“Some people say a couple of words here and there, it could be one word, it could be a speech, there’s a mountain of other players that I know of that have spoken in dressing rooms over the last number of years at certain stages, the likes of Noel Hickey and so on. They said stuff that have really got the team going and you want to knock down walls (afterwards).
“I think some people are thinking that — will I say a speech or something like. If I have a word or two to say, I’ll say it but there’s no point saying something for the sake of it. It’s all about what happens on the field. Even from the last day, we said ‘let’s leave it on the field, there’s no point talking about these things. Do what you have to do on the field’. So I’ll be coming from that angle if anything.”
Fennelly doesn’t want to be a distraction but then he knows how pragmatic Kilkenny have to be when they are without one of their warriors.
He’s seen first-hand how the injured have been put to the back of the collective’s thoughts simply because they have to be.
“Once that game starts, I’ll be forgotten about and the sympathy will be forgotten about because win or lose it doesn’t matter. In a year or six months time, people aren’t going to talk about my injury; they’ll talk about who won that All-Ireland and who was playing. It doesn’t matter whether you’re injured or not. If you are injured you’re going to be forgotten about and that’s just the way it is again, unfortunately.”
Fennelly yearned for a duel with Michael Breen just as much as anyone else. But for his Achilles heel setback, it was a battle that would have set Croke Park alight.
“Yeah, I heard that possible match-up a couple of months back and it is a pity. I wouldn’t like facing him to be honest, he’s a strong young fella, he’s fast as well. Who knows, I could have been picking up someone like Brendan Maher.
“It would have been a nice match-up (Breen), a nice challenge again, a nice test, something I’d look forward to. He’d have the edge on me alright but there’s nothing I can do about it now unfortunately.”
Fennelly views Tipperary as a more fearsome side now than two years ago when Kilkenny saw them off in a replay.
“I think over the last two, three or four years, this is their strongest team. They have it structured well, they have the likes of Brendan Maher back into midfield now where he was in 2010 — I think that’s his best position.
“They have the addition of Ronan Maher at centre-back, which they probably lacked the last few years with players interchanging. Paudie Maher’s best position is half-back and he’s there now, young (John) McGrath is corner-forward and banging in goals this year. And they’re not panicking and they’ve subs to come on as well.
“Against Galway they were kind of caught in a few situations. Galway could have easily won that game but Tipperary never panicked; they kept hurling, kept tipping away and got the scores at the end.”
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