Monday 23 October 2017

Fennelly: I had to take a serious look at myself, we all did

Fennelly used his pace and craft to bag two sublime goals while looking menacing throughout. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Fennelly used his pace and craft to bag two sublime goals while looking menacing throughout. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Colin Fennelly has the potential to change the course of a game or even a season, and although his true ability hadn't witnessed for quite some time, there was a timely reminder as he finally sprung to life on Saturday evening in spectacular fashion.

Parked on the edge of the square, Fennelly (pictured)used his pace and craft to bag two sublime goals while looking menacing throughout as the Cats unlocked a Waterford defence which had shut them out emphatically just six days previous.

After being called ashore at half-time in this year's Leinster final, the Ballyhale Shamrocks forward had to reassess. He was forced to add new facets to attacking arsenal because 2016 had seen little reward for all his efforts.

Home truths are quickly found when staring into the mirror and his Thurles brace was the culmination of his change in mentality as Kilkenny booked their 11th final in the last 12 seasons.

"The Galway game just wasn't good enough. And you're thinking 'I'm training now since January or February and this is not good enough'," he said.

"I had to take a serious look at myself and start looking over videos, and start doing things that I haven't been doing before.

"I'm there six years and there's still all new things that I have to learn and I still have to do."

Their drawn game with the Déise posed similar questions of the squad as a whole. The rare sight of a Kilkenny team being bullied team had hurt - they are usually the aggressors - and consequently, there was an extra edge to the exchanges under Semple Stadium's lights.

Watching the match back made for grim viewing but it was a necessity. It afforded them the opportunity to solve such problems with a savage intensity evident in all areas.

Their tackling was relentless; it wasn't quite a role reversal but they put their usual stamp on proceedings in another attritional affair.

"There were big tackles and lads getting the flicks in, Waterford were doing that the last day, they put us back on your back. We really did have to look at the game, it was a horrible thing to look back over it on the Monday and Tuesday but we had to do it," said Fennelly (26).

"It wasn't great seeing Waterford throwing us all over the place but you have to face facts and they did. You have to look at your own performance and say 'Is that me? Is that what I've been training for all year?' And it's not like.

"You have to look back at the game and when you're getting the ball you're looking up and you're walking around the place - you have to be going like the hammers of hell, because if you don't move they'll have three men on you and they'll squeeze, and that's what they did the last day.

"If we laid down and let them walk all over us then the towel was thrown in, but the towel wasn't thrown in and we got a second chance to look back at ourselves and the 17 or 18 of us that were out there put in our best performance.

"Character is what this team is about and we didn't slack back. We lapsed a bit in some other games and especially the last day - Waterford were all over us and that had to change."

Fennelly, a 2014 All-Star, was flanked by debutants Liam Blanchfield, who fired over three brilliant points, and Mark Bergin but watching their performances every week in Nowlan Park, he never doubted their transition to the biggest stage.

"In training the lads do the exact same as everyone else; sometimes they put out what does be called the 'A' team but the 'B' team do be beating us like, it's just the exact same all over the field and the boys did a fantastic job today," he said.

Three in a row is not something Kilkenny think about or target but the thoughts of being back in the September showpiece for another year thrills Fennelly. While the outside world might believe it gets stale or boring for them, they revel in it and never take their success for granted.

"The feeling, it always gets a little bit better I think," he said while soaking in their remarkable achievement. "To get the chance to get back there, this is three years in a row now, you just wouldn't think it, it's not a given thing."

It's a sentiment echoed by his outstanding half-back team-mate Cillian Buckley. Preparing for a crack at Liam MacCarthy is not simple but it's exactly why they do what they do.

"The next three weeks, although it's tough and we've loads of work to do, it's really enjoyable preparing for an All-Ireland final," Buckley said.

"It's absolutely brilliant. We've a serious challenge ahead, we've more work to do and we'll get down to it during the week, we'll enjoy this but there's no doubt there's room for improvement but preparing for an All-Ireland final is absolutely savage."

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