Michael Fennelly struggling to be fit for Wexford showdown

Troublesome lower back problem may curtail Kilkenny ace’s role at Nowlan Park

 Mayo footballers, senior Cillian O’Connor, minor Barry Duffy, and Kilkenny hurlers, minor Tommy Walsh and senior Michael Fennelly at the launch of the Electric Ireland All-Ireland minor championshhips at Croke Park. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Mayo footballers, senior Cillian O’Connor, minor Barry Duffy, and Kilkenny hurlers, minor Tommy Walsh and senior Michael Fennelly at the launch of the Electric Ireland All-Ireland minor championshhips at Croke Park. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

 

Michael Fennelly has emerged as a fitness concern ahead of Kilkenny’s Leinster hurling semi-final against Wexford in Nowlan Park this Sunday.

A lower back problem, linked to his arthritis, flared up five weeks ago, which leaves him struggling to break into Brian Cody’s first championship side of 2015.

“Yeah, I hope to be involved,” said Fennelly.

“I have trained for the last week or so, don’t know about full fitness. Maybe I am being a bit optimistic but you have to be optimistic.”

As the 30-year-old midfielder elaborated on the problem, at the Electric Ireland minor championship launch, it became apparent the injury’s severity is not only a threat to his future hurling career but general health.

“Life, I suppose, is more important. People forget about you pretty quickly after a couple of years when you move on no matter how many All-Ireland medals you have, unfortunately. It’s been a bit of a scare to be honest.

“Your back is everything. If that’s not right you can’t do daily functions. If you have kids in the future and can’t play with them and that’s a different scenario altogether.

“It probably is something I will revisit at some stage to see how my body is. When I am training well and the body feels well it’s great but especially an injury like your back puts things into perspective.

“It’s your lower back so you can’t do gym work, can’t swim, can’t jog. You can walk but sure how good is that going to be? I just have to do nothing, let it rest. Bending down seems to catch me out.”

Fennelly doesn’t know the root cause of the injury.

“It’s settled down at the moment so hopefully it just stays that way. Maybe, as one of the lads said, it’s the hard ground as it’s the summer and it’s at me again when the hard grounds come back. Maybe that’s something to do with it.”

This follows on from ankle problems which curbed his influence during 2012 and 2013.

“Yeah, bad ankle injuries,” Fennelly continued. “It’s a nightmare to be honest. The last couple of years have been disappointing for me in one sense because I haven’t actually played as many games as I would like.”

It’s not the only selection problem facing Cody. The defending Leinster and All-Ireland champions must deal with Wexford following the retirement of JJ Delaney, Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan and Henry Shefflin while Richie Power (knee) is unlikely to feature.

“Come championship we will definitely feel it and see it,” said Fennelly of the departure of some of the greatest hurlers to ever play the game.

“In the dressing room, at training in the last week or two it’s different because the likes of Brian Hogan, JJ, Henry, such big names, big influences on the pitch, they will be massively missed during the year. As everyone says life goes on.”

A dip

Kilkenny

“This year will tell a lot. Can we actually match them, can we keep going. Last year we did keep going and this year now we have to try and back it up. JJ’s a massive loss. He was full back there, he looks after that zone. It’s an important area and I don’t know how many goals we conceded last year but I don’t think it was that many. Under high balls he was very strong.

“You had all the security with him and you always want your full-back to have that security. The majority of balls that go in there, he’s going to win to be honest. That’s the way he has been, half-back or full-back his whole life, 14 or 15 years. He’s always nearly consistently won 80 per cent of balls that went into him. He’s badly missed. Life goes on.

“ Who will be in there at full back I’m not sure but whoever goes in will be okay, will still be a good quality hurler.”

Great season

“They had a great season last year, they beat the 2013 All-Ireland champions, went to extra-time and a replay where a lot of teams would have said they had their chance and bottled it but they came back and won it.

“They beat Waterford in Nowlan Park, I was at that game, there was massive excitement and their supporters are great auld craic to be fair to them. I think maybe they played Limerick the following week again and maybe just fatigue had caught them out.

“But they had a massive year and I’d expect they’d be looking at doing something similar this year.”

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