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Fennelly flourishing in his new home at heart of the Ballyhale Shamrocks defence


Michael Fennelly

Michael Fennelly

Michael Fennelly

RARELY has a simple positional switch been so unanimously hailed as such a success.

In theory, it shouldn't surprise anyone that Michael Fennelly is thriving at centre-back for Ballyhale Shamrocks, a development their manager Colm Bonnar reckons has been "a revelation" for his team this year.

It's just that so accustomed are we to seeing Fennelly's powerful forward drives and the devastation they tend to produce, instructing him stay inside his own half seems a strange thing to do.

Or at least, counter-productive.

"We knew the quality of the player that were going to be coming back when the county season finished," explains Bonnar ahead of Sunday's Leinster Club SHC final against Kilcormac Killoughey in Portlaoise.

"And we knew with the likes of Henry Shefflin, 'Cha' Fitzpatrick, TJ Reid, Mark Aylward, Colin Fennelly and Eoin Reid in attack, we could potentially do well there."

too old

Because word on the street was that Ballyhale's defence was getting on just a bit.

"There'd be a lot of talk in Kilkenny about teams and a lot of people were saying that with Ballyhale their backs were too old," admits Colin Fennelly.

"You have Bob Aylward there 36, Tom Coogan 36 corner back , Paul Shefflin is 34; another wing-back."

So Bonnar simply decided to harden the spine of his defence.

Hence Fennelly slipped in at six and Joey Holden - who is set to captain Kilkenny next year - moved from wing-back to full-back in their Kilkenny quarter-final against Danesfort on a windy afternoon in Nowlan Park.

"Joey Holden is an exceptional wing-back for us," Bonnar outlines.

"He's very strong under a high ball but we just started moving players around. We said we'd try Joey out full-back and Michael at centre-back.

"It took a game or two to get into motion but once things started to come right, they got there quickly.

"The boys are used to playing in those systems. I think it has been a revelation for us.


"It's definitely helped Ballyhale get to where we are; in a Leinster final. Because Michael is a huge presence now at the back and Joey, he's enormous in terms of going back full-back. So it has helped our backline out in terms of being more solid. I think if we can keep that tightness, we would hopefully put up enough scores to win a match."

Says Colin Fennelly: "We weren't too sure how he'd go back there because even with the county, we tried him up forwards and the backs and his best position seems to be midfield.

"But he certainly has come up trumps for us back centre back and catching ball and clearing ball and Joey Holden back full-back steadies the ship as well.

"People are starting to talk about it (as a possibility with Kilkenny) now but Cody has tried him backs and forwards, probably more forwards han backs and Cody has tried a lot of lads centre-back as well.

"It's probably something Cody will look at maybe in the league."