Fennelly keen for Kilkenny to spread out
ALL-IRELAND SHC FINAL REPLAYThe Kilkenny midfielder hopes to make up for a frustrating performance in the drawn final, writes MALACHY CLERKIN
THE DIFFERENCE is underfoot. A game is a game and a replay is a replay but you can’t pretend the build-up is one and the same for both. For players, it comes down to practicalities and Michael Fennelly isn’t long putting his finger on what it means to be preparing for an All Ireland final in the last week of September as opposed to the back-to-school evenings of late August.
“The field,” he says. “Even the field isn’t what it was.”
This time last year, he was actually getting ready for a replay of a different colour. Ballyhale and Carrickshock tangoed on two successive weekends in the Kilkenny championship and could only be pulled apart in the dying minutes of a second mini-epic at Nowlan Park. That’s all put to one side for the minute and nobody’s even jesting about the prospect of another draw on Sunday. Not within earshot of Ned Quinn (county board secretary) anyway.
Fennelly could have ended it all himself three weeks ago. Despite putting in one of his quietest ever days in a Kilkenny jersey – he struck the ball off his hurl twice in the whole game – he had the chance to hoist what would have been a winning point in injury time.
All that stopped him was Henry Shefflin standing alone out to one side, screaming for a pass.
Considering the respective games they were having, nobody blamed him for dishing it off. “I think Henry called for it as soon as I got it,” he says. “I presumed there was somebody coming in on top of me, so I threw it out to him. I heard his voice calling out for it so the form he was hitting them in – he practically dragged us back into the game. I thought someone was closing me down so I got rid of it straightaway. But if he hadn’t called for it I would have shot for it myself.”
It had been a frustrating day for Fennelly. Much like his brother Colin whose sole meaningful action had been the late shot so brilliantly saved by James Skehill, it was a game that flowed through other hands rather than his. With the Galway midfield making hay with what ball came through the centre of the pitch, the reigning hurler of the year was unable to impose himself. He freely admits as much.
“The last day I was quite poor, to be honest. I didn’t really get into the game as I thought I would. It bypassed me at times. It was a strange game, with the fact Galway were batting the ball back 20 yards or so and the ball was flying past midfield. So you have to adjust to the game. There was a lot of running and Galway have a lot of runners. [Andy] Smith, who I was marking, is quite fast. [Damien] Hayes, [Joe] Canning is able to move, and Cyril Donnellan.