Monday 27 January 2020

Borris-Ileigh's Kenny ready to face 'best club of all time'

Tough test: Conor Kenny of Borris-Ileigh is expecting nothing easy against champions Ballyhale Shamrocks. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Tough test: Conor Kenny of Borris-Ileigh is expecting nothing easy against champions Ballyhale Shamrocks. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The rivalry between Kilkenny and Tipperary has illuminated much of the last decade - indeed, it lights up the previous one, too, when their 2002 and 2003 championship games as well as league finals are incorporated.

Since 2009 there has been more Tipperary/Kilkenny Al-Ireland hurling finals than the other combinations combined. However, there is no history between their respective club champions, chiefly because Tipperary clubs - especially in the last three decades - have been so far off the pace at national level.

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Borris-Ileigh's progress to the All-Ireland final where they will face reigning champions Ballyhale Shamrocks is the first time that Tipperary have been represented at this stage since Toomevara were beaten by Galway's Sarsfields in 1994.

Prior to that only three Tipperary clubs had made it to a final with all three winning - Roscrea in the inaugural decider in 1971, followed up by back-to-back wins for Kilruane MacDonaghs and Borris-Ileigh in 1986 and '87.

Such poor representation is remarkable for one of the strongest hurling counties with one of the most populated senior championships. Maybe that's part of the problem - their season, with all its divisional layers, stretches too far.

Since Tipp's last involvement with Toomevara in 1994, 11 counties have seen their club champions make it to the decider, highlighting the disparity between the Premier County team and its clubs. Galway have been most frequent, given the advantage they enjoy as Connacht representatives each year, and are joined by Cork, Limerick, Clare and Waterford from Munster, Offaly, Dublin, Kilkenny, Wexford and Carlow from Leinster as well as Antrim.

For Borris-Ileigh captain Conor Kenny - who grew up in Celbridge and won a Leinster U-21 A title with Kildare in 2012 before transferring to his current club - they are now facing "the best club of all time" in the final.

"We just can't wait for two weeks' time against Ballyhale. What tougher a test do you want? They're such a seasoned team, probably the best club team of all time. Borris-Ileigh will come in their thousands and hopefully, we'll get a good performance."

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Kenny, scorer of three points in Sunday's semi-final win over St Thomas', can scarcely believe their run of form, given last year's North Tipperary final defeat to Kiladangan.

"I remember going back to training the following Saturday and saying, 'What's going to happen to us?' We just had a meeting and cleared the air and this is where the journey has taken us now."

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