IN A glittering career Colin Fennelly has seen pretty much everything the hurling world has to offer, but even he was able to enjoy a new experience in Sunday’s enthralling League final win over Tipperary.
“It was strange to play a game like that in Nowlan Park,” the Kilkenny captain admitted when asked what the experience of a full house was like. “We play here practically every week and it’s not too often that you’d see the stands full like that. It was a great feeling to play in front of such a full crowd.
“It added to the game for us,” he said of the noise and colour that packed out the stands and terrace. “It’s a lot different from playing in Croke Park.
“The crowd is so close to you here that they are practically on top of the players. You can hear them cheering so loudly that when you put the ball over the bar the roar brings you on so much that you’re roaring at the other players to spur them on too! It was a huge boost.”
The crowd played their part in the day, but the no-so small matter of his brother Michael’s opening goal gave the team another charge.
“The brother came up trumps with a couple of goals,” he said. “It was a huge boost as it gave us a base to work on - you can keep tipping over scores after that.
“We were happy to come in two points up at half-time (2-7 to 0-11) and the goals helped us to keep going like that.”
Both of those goals scored by the elder Fennelly helped settle what proved to be a tight game, exactly what the captain had anticipated.
Point for point
“It was over and back for a long time there, with the games going point for point,” said Colin. “We got the lead up to three points and then they’d bring us back down to one.
“It was tit-for-tat as many people expected. There could have been a lot more goals for the two sides but we were happy with what we got - we didn’t need the extra drama!”
The game has been played at white-knuckle pace, but seemed to dip after the dismissals of J.J. Delaney and Lar Corbett, something Fennelly felt could have been avoided.
“The red card is a disaster,” he said. “Obviously there are times when it is necessary, but even in the League match against Tipp Tommy (Walsh) and Noel McGrath were both sent off harshly and it brought the game down. I didn’t think there was much in the incident (between J.J. Delaney and Lar Corbett) but it did bring the game’s intensity down again. There were a lot of frees for both teams after that as well, so that didn’t help as there had been a lot of hard work done to that stage.
“The cards flattened the game but it was hard on the ref too,” Fennelly added.
“He has the crowd roaring and a lot of players coming in. He has to make the decisions and we have to go with them. We do argue, but that’s all in the moment - you have to get on with it.”
Despite the red cards the day ended on a high for Kilkenny, who defended the league title without several injured players. Silverware aside, that was as big a positive, Fennelly reckoned.
“It’s a huge boost to have won without the lads, but it puts pressure on all of us,” he said.
“You might think that you played well in the final but then you have all the boys coming back so you know you have to hit the ground running all over again, even in club matches.
“It will be a huge boost to see the lads coming back in again,” he added. “They’ll be hitting off each other in training in no time.
“That’ll be good during it,” he smiled. “After it you’ll suffer!”