THERE was plenty of blood, but Colin Fennelly found that an All-Ireland winners’ medal was the perfect painkiller.
“I didn’t think I was cut at all,” he said of his other souvenir from Sunday’s final, a knock which required stitches just minutes before half-time.
“I had a new helmet, which I thought might protect me, but sure it’s only a small cut - only two stitches, so it’s grand.”
His colleague J.J. Delaney remarked that Fennelly put his head where others wouldn’t have put a hurley. The big question was why?
“I had the hurl in but the rest of me had to keep going!” he said of the challenge on Lar Corbett that led to the head wound. “I blocked him down - that was the main thing. I knew if anything happened that there would be a lad ready to come in instead of me (T.J. Reid) so there was no worries at all - you just put your body on the line.”
Having recovered from a potentially year-ending hamstring injury, Fennelly admitted it felt great to be able to play and be a winner.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” he said. “This is my first year on the senior panel; 12 months ago I was sitting in the stand looking on at the boys. I never thought I’d be in this position. I remember getting the call (from the selectors) at Christmas. Ever since then I’ve worked and worked, put everything into my game and kept that up with the Shamrocks. Then, over the last three weeks with the injury, the facilities I was allowed to use and programmes the lads gave me to get back to full fitness were incredible - you wouldn’t get it anywhere else.”
While Fennelly admitted that his hopes of making the final were all but gone as soon as he suffered his injury while playing for Ballyhale in the last round of the senior hurling league, he became positive once he started his intensive cryotherapy treatment.
“At first I didn’t think I’d make the final as it was a complete hamstring pull,” he said. “The lads rushed me straight down to Wexford and from the first day, it started getting better day by day.
“After that I couldn’t be stopped,” he said. “There were no setbacks, nothing at all. I had it in my head that I had plenty of time to make a full recovery. I was able to get time off work and get into the gym twice a day which gave me loads of time to think about the game and think everything through. It was an ideal way to prepare.”
Away from the buzz surrounding the All-Ireland build-up, Fennelly had time to work on his fitness away from the public glare. In the end, it added an extra dimension to his game.
Focus on fitness
“I was able to focus on my own fitness, which was something I had been worried about, to be able to keep going for a whole game,” he said. “At times in the past I would have been down on my knees, feeling tired, but getting to the gym twice a day helped me to get past that. I was able to use the facilities at Nowlan Park, from the weights room to the ice bath.
“I was in and out the whole time but Timmy Grogan (the groundsman in the ‘Park) let me use it without a problem,” he added. “It really helped, not just the hamstring but my whole body in general,” he said. “If I hadn’t injured my hamstring I might not have been in this position at all.”
And there was no worry that Fennelly would break down once the game got motoring.
“There was no fear that the injury would reoccur,” he said. “My muscles tightened up last Wednesday, which left me worried, but the backroom team helped get rid of that stiffness and, day after day, everything settled again.”
And what better way to mark the comeback than by securing his first senior All-Ireland medal.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “After watching the four in a row team lose last year’s final I thought Kilkenny’s time was up. However, when we came in at the start of the season the selectors told us it could be a great year. From that moment on we worked hard and gave everything.
“To have an All-Ireland medal after that is something else,” he finished. “It’s something I thought I’d never have.”