Brendan McTaggart speaks with Colin Fennelly after his Ballyhale side won a ninth All Ireland crown on Sunday
At the age of 33 years young, Colin Fennelly has a list of hurling honours that is the envy of the hurling world. Along with four All-Ireland county medals and two All-Stars, Fennelly has now won six Club All Ireland’s. Incredible numbers with both he and TJ Reid at the top of the list when it comes to Tom Moore Cup medals.
He celebrated Sunday’s win like it was his first. A mix of elation tinged with more than a hint of relief as he told us after the game: “It was tight throughout. They play a different brand of hurling and we couldn’t get our head around it. They brought it to us and we just had that bit more experience at the end but it could really have gone either way.
“If they had popped over a few it could have put us down but lucky enough a few of our sharpshooter came out and got the scores.”
The Cuchullains made the dream start to Sunday’s final with Ronan Molloy’s early goal giving them an early lead. The Ballyhale stalwart said they are used to facing such scenarios: “It was the worse start but we’ve been in that position so many times over the years and you just deal with it. It’s all about getting that next score and thats what we did.
It was a sucker punch but you get back up and you do not put the head down at any stage. It doesn’t matter if the goal comes in the first minute of the last, you just keep on going.”
In a game where both sides struggled for any fluency, neither looked nervous. The touch and basics were gone from both sides and the Croke Park surface was the overriding factor when looking for causes. Described as being in the worse condition many pundits had witnessed, on closer inspection the pitch had been sprayed green to mask the amount of sand that had been laid. Fennelly said it certainly made life difficult for players and officials: “It was difficult but given the time of year and weather there’s been of late, it can almost be forgiven but it was hugely difficult out there. The ground was dead, some ball was touched on the ground and it made it hard for the referee. Typically any other game, you get that bounce. It was awful but look overall it’s always great to play in Croke Park.”
The Ballyhale club now sit on top of the Club pyramid. Nine times champions, 20 Kilkenny titles and in just their 50th year. It’s incredible numbers for the Shamrocks as they reaffirmed their aristocratic and legendary status. Despite having been around the block and won everything there is to offer, Fennelly said that he and his side are never likely to take these victories for granted. “It’s a very special time for the club,” he continued: “on Friday night past there, something we didn’t know about, there was a video made of every single family around the parish for every single player. It was absolutely amazing to see the effort that everyone put in and we sat there for 15 or 20 minutes just taking it all in. There was clips from all around the world, it was a special moment to see that despite everything we’ve been through and everything we’ve won, that drive is still there in not alone the supporters but the players as well.
“We’re hoping to get away for a few days but you need to remember these occasions. You have to stay together and it’s a really special time for this club.”