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'These boys are just so clued in' reveals Ballyhale boss Colm Bonnar ahead of Kilcormac clash

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Kilcormac-Killoughey's captain Dan Curram, right, and Ballyhale Shamrocks player Colin Fennelly are pictured ahead of the AIB GAA Leinster Senior Hurling Club Championship Final

Kilcormac-Killoughey's captain Dan Curram, right, and Ballyhale Shamrocks player Colin Fennelly are pictured ahead of the AIB GAA Leinster Senior Hurling Club Championship Final

Kilcormac-Killoughey's captain Dan Curram, right, and Ballyhale Shamrocks player Colin Fennelly are pictured ahead of the AIB GAA Leinster Senior Hurling Club Championship Final

WHAT with the Kilkennny Championship enduring a three-week delay on account of the rather freakish occurrence of a third successive All-Ireland hurling final replay and, not be discounted, the fact that Ballyhale only had a week to celebrate, repair and prepare for a trip to Parnell Park, those giving Kilmacud Crokes a chance in the Leinster semi-final weren't as scarce as they might normally have been.

What ensued was the sort of hurling lesson those of a disposition skittish enough to back the Dublin champions will learn often; the team that always win, always wins.

Particularly if they're from Kilkenny.

"To be fair to them, they knew there was a bigger picture ahead of them if they got their act together," says Ballyhale manager Colm Bonnar, whom you can't quite imagine traipsing around the club bar from player to player on the night they beat Clara in the Kilkenny decider imploring them of the importance of giving Leinster a rattle.

"You'd have to say that a lot of these lads have been down this road before and they know what it's like to win a county final, a Leinster final or even a club All-Ireland final," Bonnar points out.

"So yes, they've been down this road. It's just a case of if it's something they want.

"They have the talent. They've shown it. They've been there before. It's just a case of trying to get that appetite back and trying to have a go at it."

"They're only one hour away from being Leinster Champions," he points out.

"So that's huge motivation in itself.

"No matter how many Leinster finals you've played in, the ambition has to be there to win the next one. And these lads are hugely ambitious."

Having accepted a job as manager of Waterford side Ballygunner and then, almost immediately, stood down, Bonnar found himself presented with the task of taking one of the great club hurling teams to another set of titles.

The motivational speaking part of the introduction didn't take long.

CLUED IN

"These lads are just so clued in from the word 'go'. Anything they do, they do it at the highest level," he explains.

"There's no 'we've won an All-Ireland with Kilkenny now so we'll just go through the motions.'

"They're a driving force, really. And they're hugely ambitious to be as successful with the club as they are with the county.

"And you know, if anything, we're trying to row them in a small but because they want to do extra the whole time to get an extra inch, whether it is on physical fitness or training after training, they're always doing more.

"So you can see why they've been at the top for so long and why they're so dedicated to their sport. I would known the likes of TJ and Eoin Reid from the colleges hurling and Henry from WIT. They just so dedicated to their sport and improvement and becoming more consistent.

"They're a joy to coach really because you come in and they're already focused. You have to hit the ground running with these lads because that's what they want."

None moreso than Henry Shefflin, whom upon receipt of a tenth All-Ireland title, became within a matter of weeks the best performer at a club bejewelled with genius.

"You can see why he has ten All-Irelands," Bonnar points out.

"His appetite and his work rate are phenomenal and the quality of his hurling, from the quarter-finals up, I would say he's nearly been our top scorer from play.

"Since we got to the knock-out stages, I would say he's nearly been our most consistent performer, not just in terms of scoring but creating scores as well. His ability to ghost away from players and get scores.

"His all-round game, whether he's scoring or setting up scores, he's always contributing to Ballyhale. He has the appetite to do it and he's still on the road so we're delighted to see the form that he's in."

marched

Kilcormac Killoughey have been Leinster champions since Ballyhale last won one and having marched to a third Offaly title in succession, they wont lack for spark on Sunday in Portlaoise.

"To be fair to Kilcormac, they're there or merit," Bonnar points out.

"They're unbeaten for three years in a very competitive Championship in Offaly. They beat Coolderry in the semi-final. Club hurling is an awful lot stronger in Offaly than at county level.

"They're making huge improvements. They've been Leinster Champions in 2012, so they will have no fear of Ballyhale. Having seen them play, they're physically very strong all through the middle.

"They have a lot of good hurlers and fellas who could take scores. We know a fair bit about them. On any given day," he adds, "they're capable of winning any game, just like Ballyhale will be."


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