Thursday 27 October 2016

Fennelly injury will hurt Cats against Tipp

Published 17/08/2016 | 02:30

Kilkenny hurler Michael Fennelly. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / Sportsfile
Kilkenny hurler Michael Fennelly. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / Sportsfile

In June last year Michael Fennelly admitted that retirement from Kilkenny had already crossed his radar.

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He was only 30 at the time but persistent back trouble, on top of the two bad ankle ligament injuries he sustained in 2012 and 2013, was beginning to really compromise him. Daily functions, simple things like bending down to pick something up, demanded a second thought.

"(Retirement) probably has been there in the last year or two in the back of my mind," Fennelly said at the time. "Life is more important and people forget about you pretty quickly when you move on, no matter how many All-Ireland medals you have, unfortunately."

Since then he has added another one, his influence as the juggernaut at the heart of this Kilkenny team never more apparent than their drive to the finish line in last year's All-Ireland final when he scored two points, in the midst of so many other important interventions.

This despite an enduring battle to hold a recurring groin injury at bay to play the games. Fennelly's capacity to detect the pulse of a game and make those interventions are close to being unrivalled in the modern game with the obvious few exceptions in his own dressing-room.

But it's perhaps against Tipperary that he has made his mark most.

The 2010 championship, the year after he had come off the bench to captain the side, was where he really announced his arrival, and in the All-Ireland final he left nothing out there as the five-in-a-row slipped away.

His goal in the 2011 final was the essence of the effect he can have on games, using his power to scythe through the Tipp defence to provide real momentum in the first half.

He spent much of 2014 in the wars with his back but the surge in Kilkenny's intensity level for the All-Ireland final replay against Tipp was in no small way due to Fennelly's second-half blitx after an indifferent drawn game at centre-forward.

The miracle of Fennelly has been how he turned out so well in the games that he played, often with little conventional preparation.

But now one of the most chronic sports injuries of all, a ruptured Achilles tendon, threatens to bring that thought rolling in the back of his head much more to the fore.

His capacity for recovery is renowned. As a sports science lecturer he knows his body better than anyone but the sporting world is not flush with success stories that have followed an Achilles rupture that will take six to eight months just to get back on track from. Even then regaining full recovery of power and spring can be challenging.

Irish Independent

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