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Kilkenny legend Fennelly hangs up club boots as injuries become a 'burden'


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Kilkenny legend Michael Fennelly. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Kilkenny legend Michael Fennelly. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Kilkenny legend Michael Fennelly. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Kilkenny legend Michael Fennelly admitted that he's "not physically able" to play on any longer after bringing the curtain down on his glittering hurling career with club and county.

Fennelly acknowledged that he was "70 or 80 per cent retired" after captaining Ballyhale Shamrocks to back-to-back All-Ireland club SHC successes with defeat of Borris-Ileigh in January after a series of career-threatening injuries made it "a burden and a struggle" in recent years.

The 35-year-old, winner of eight All-Ireland SHC medals with the Cats as well as five All-Ireland club titles with Ballyhale, "wasn't enjoying it as much" as his body struggled through training and games and he feels "the time is right" to hang up his boots.

"It's been in the back of my mind since the club final and then the whole Covid-19 thing happened too and gyms closed and there's going to be no games for a while and that probably had a small bearing on it too," Fennelly told the Irish Independent.

"But in the back of my mind I know my body is not there and able anymore, I'm not physically able and I've been getting by the last two years just about training week on week; it's been a bit of a burden and a struggle to a certain degree too.

"I wasn't enjoying it as much as I would have and every training session was taking it out of me. I was just managing myself and trying to get through it. It would be very hard to go another year to try and get through it again.

"There's more things wrong with me at the moment if I was to go back playing at that level so I just don't want to be ending my career on an injury. I was always conscious of that. The time is right now to step away."

Fennelly, Hurler of the Year in 2011, told his family, teammates and club officials of the decision in recent weeks with his new role as Offaly hurling manager, as well as having a young family, sure to be other factors in his decision.

The three-time All Star had a hectic final few months of his playing career trying to balance club duty while managing the Faithful and although this decision has been coming for a few months, it has been a hard one to cope with.

"It was difficult because when you start talking about it out loud, that's when it becomes real and that was a bit of a struggle. I was thinking about it since January and I was looking to finish then after the All-Ireland but it's hard to walk away," the 2009 All-Ireland-winning skipper said.

Fennelly's departure is the second high-profile casualty for the south Kilkenny powerhouse after Henry Shefflin stepped down as manager in the wake of their latest All-Ireland success with Waterford native James O'Connor leading their hat-trick bid when the action eventually resumes.

Irish Independent