It is that time of the year when the Kilkenny hurling family gets geared up, into the zone and sorted and ready in every way for the All-Ireland road.
For a Kilkenny hurler or a follower, it has become a near annual pilgrimage to the Valhalla of All-Ireland hurling on the first Sunday in September.
Somebody recently remarked that the regularity of such events from a Kilkenny viewpoint must now be bordering on the monotonous.
“It must surely be boring at this stage,” said my acquaintance.
As a supporter the unequivocal NO was the instant retort.
From a players perspective?
Michael Fennelly, could you ever get enough of being central to a Kilkenny team as they run out to contest an All-Ireland final?
“How could you get enough of winning All-Ireland finals,” he fired back with eyes wild with amazement.
“In fairness, last year wasn’t much of a winning year for us. So really the fact that we were not involved at the tough end of the year last year is yet another incentive to put it right this time.
“We won the National League and the Leinster final, which we hadn’t done for two years, but no, winning is the best habit you could have. Not winning is the greatest incentive you can get to drive on the next time.”
Share of problems
In the last two years your activity on the pitch have been hampered by a series of injuries. You turned your back on Financial Investment with Ulster Bank, enrolled in LIT to study Sports Science, spent months with the Sydney Swans furthering your qualification, returning home and then those damned injuries again nailed you.
It all certainly qualifies as your Annus Horibilis?
“I’ve had my share of problems with ankles and legs, and then when I came back at the start of the year, I got trouble with my back,” the former All-Star replied.
“I have a fair few miles on the clock what with inter-county All-Irelands and with the Shamrocks. I wouldn’t take anything away from that, but you drive on, get up and get going again.
“Hurling should only be a hobby. Obviously your job and livelihood come first, but playing with this Kilkenny team is practically another full-time career. It is transient, very enjoyable, but that all goes out the window now. It’s all about now. It’s all about the present. It’s all about the final in Croke Park against Tipperary.”
How conscious would you be of the Fennelly tradition? Would it be burden at times?
“Undoubtedly my dad (Michael) and his six brothers (Ger, Kevin, Brendan, Sean, Liam and Dermot) have created a tremendous hurling legacy, a legacy that will probably live as long as the game is played,” he said.
“Both Colin and I would be well aware of that legacy, but we are now trying to carve a niche in our time, and create our own legacy. We certainly would be proud to carry the name, but this is our time, this is our stage, this is where we create our own destiny.”
Colin going well
Wow, he didn’t leave much to the imagination there!
We saw Colin Fennelly race from the small square at the Davin Stand end of Croke Park to make an unbelievable flick away from Shane Dowling, thus preventing a goal that might have changed the result against Limerick in the semi-final.
Rewinding the tape, we could see his uncle Liam endeavouring to do exactly the same exercise to prevent Noel Lane’s shot on goal in 1987, in the same goalmouth. Difference was that uncle Liam didn’t succeed, despite his heroism.
How important is it to have your brother soldiering with you?
“He is having a great year,” he said of the ‘young lad’. “His confidence is sky high, but he is only another player. We all have our roles to play, and there is a massive job waiting to be done.
“We are all working hard to get on the starting XV. All places are up for grabs. It’s great to see Colin blossoming this year, and hopefully he can keep his high octane game going in the final.
“But he is only one cog in the well-oiled machine. All it needs is for one cog to malfunction, and all is lost. We know that. Every member of the panel will be doing their utmost to get us over the line in front. This is not about the Fennellys. This is about Kilkenny.”