Fennelly insists Carrickshock can come of age in decider
FROM a nine-point defeat in the first round of last year's championship to a final appearance in 2010, Carrickshock have come a long way under Brendan Fennelly.
But then, it might have been expected. Carrickshock are, as Fennelly put it, much better than that campaign suggested. And a glance at the team sheet shows five established inter-county players in Kilkenny quartet Richie Power, Michael Rice, John Tennyson and John Dalton as well as Offaly's David Franks.
And it's probably a good omen that the club's last championship success also came under another member of the Fennelly clan, as Brendan's brother Kevin steered them to the intermediate championship in '04.
"They are of an age where they are capable of winning the championship and the maturity is there too," said Brendan Fennelly. "They should be reaching their peak now at this stage."
They face O'Loughlin Gaels in Nowlan Park tomorrow -- Gaels' semi-final win marks them out as the form side as they halted Ballyhale Shamrocks' own 'drive for five' of successive county titles.
Gaels lost Tipp's Paul Kelly at the start of the year as he returned to Mullinahone but with Brian Hogan, Maurice Nolan and Martin Comerford in good form, they ousted Ballyhale.
"Shamrocks were the team to be beaten and O'Loughlins had a very good game plan and they stuck to it. They have a lot of experience. Fourteen of their team have championship medals, even though it's 2003 since they won it, and that means a lot," said Fennelly.
Tennyson has found a way to keep his form for Carrickshock despite the knee injury he had in the All-Ireland final and continues to carry. He has been building up strength in the muscles around the knee but still needs an operation.
"John is a key man. It's a massive achievement for the man to be there at all so hopefully it works out for him. He's come so far and for him to win a county title would be a massive achievement given the circumstances," added Fennelly.
Fennelly is returning to inter-county management with Laois in 2011 after more than 10 years on the club scene. He managed Carlow in the 1996-97 season and is aware if the work that goes into preparing an inter-county side nowadays. It's for that reason that he has yet to make a decision on his future with Carrickshock.
But for now, tomorrow is all that matters. There is an element of now or never for Carrickshock, for whom Power has been in outstanding form, bagging 25 points in their last two outings.
"The players got together themselves at the start of the year," Fennelly added. "They asked themselves some hard questions and set the ground rules. They felt they were good enough to be in the top four and take it from there."