KILKENNY could have the most decorated group of players ever assembled when they return to the inter-county football stage this summer, writes John Knox.
The Cats are scheduled to return to inter-county action in the British junior football championship in June, and if the team handlers have their way players with fistfuls of All-Ireland medals will wear the colours.
The team officials are eying the likes of former All-Ireland hurling stars, Noel Hickey (9), Eddie Brennan (8), Michael Kavanagh (8) and James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick (4), among others, as possible panelists.
“All the former Kilkenny senior hurlers can expect a call,” suggested team manager, Christy Walsh, a former Kerry and Munster hurler and footballer, who took on the challenging job after Kilkenny opted out of the National Football League and Leinster junior and under-21 championships this season.
Mr Walsh’s fellow selectors Pat Mulrooney (Clara), Malachy Hogan (Dunnamaggin), Eugene Dunphy (Mooncoin), Frank O’Meara (Muckalee) and Football Board chairman, Tom ‘Cloney’ Brennan have been chasing up players all over the county and beyond.
“The word was we had 25 All-Ireland medal winners some time ago, but we haven’t seen any of them yet,” Mr Walsh said after the squad finished its second session on Monday evening. “Expect them when you see them is my philosophy.”
The selectors are keen that the former hurling stars would join the fold, because they believe their experience and winning mentality would be of huge benefit.
”I would be hopeful that some of them might join us,” Mr Walsh added. “It would be nice. It would be a show of interest in Kilkenny football. The game is at the bottom at the moment. There are plenty of good footballers there. The main problem is a lack of practice at the right time in the season.
“There appears to be a theory that if you play football you will end up injured for hurling. A lot of Kilkenny players are injured at the moment and they haven’t kicked a football.”
All games in England
The redrawn British football championship involves teams from London and all GAA divisions in England and Scotland, with Kilkenny the lone participants from Ireland. Each team is guaranteed at least three matches, beginning on the June Bank Holiday weekend.
All the games will be played in England. The British competition winners will gain entry to the All-Ireland junior football championship proper.
“We want and need a big panel,” Mr Walsh insisted. “There will be a novelty factor the first weekend going to England. But then to turn aorund six days later and travel again for the second match won’t be easy.”
The squad is currently training one night a week, on a Monday, to avoid any clash with club hurling training.
“One night a week is not enough, but you have to be realistic,” Mr Walsh said. “There is no door closed to anyone. We have made contact with nearly everyone outside of the hurling squads who played with Kilkenny over the last couple of years, and we will see where we end up.”