Friday 23 February 2018

Fans 'lockout' helped Cats sharpen claws -- Fennelly

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Michael Fennelly has admitted how shutting the gates to Nowlan Park helped to refocus the Kilkenny hurlers' minds after the Leinster final defeat to Galway earlier in the month.

Kilkenny's training sessions have an open-doors policy, with hurling enthusiasts from all over the country known to come long distances just to watch the Black and Amber go through their paces.

Two years ago, in the build-up to the All-Ireland final, some 8,000 spectators made their way to the ground to witness Henry Shefflin's near-miraculous return from a cruciate ligament tear just a few weeks earlier.

But Fennelly, who made his return to competitive action 12 weeks after damaging ankle ligaments in the league final against Cork at the same venue, believes the lockout paid dividends.


"It was just refocusing the heads. Sometimes you can't have crowds at training it's a distraction. We just got back down to business," Fennelly said. "We did a few sessions behind closed doors but it was nothing different for us than usual. We just had to get some business done."

Fennelly admitted that at half-time they considered the next 35 minutes as perhaps their last in the championship.

"At half-time you could have said we were facing into our last 35 minutes of the season. So we were glad to get through it,"he said.

"We just said, 'let's stand up here -- whoever wants this game go out there and give it everything'.

"We said to lads if they ran out of diesel, put your hand up and come off. Our attitude was to go out and empty the tank, and that's what lads did.

"The management made changes before the end and lads came in too -- that's what it's all about because we have a big panel."

Fennelly feels that the benefits of a big game will stand to Kilkenny over the next three weeks.

"We needed a big game. Limerick are a good team, they are up and coming and they have a lot of young lads there 19, 20 and 21," he added. "I didn't make my debut until I was 21, 22 so they are young and very talented.

"We knew from the last day that they got some great points against Clare. It was great to get a hard game."

Fennelly has spent the last 12 weeks on the sidelines and set a target of reaching half-time in his own mind.

But his influence lasted much longer than that, and his brilliant ball for Aidan Fogarty's goal effectively killed the game as a contest."

The current Hurler of the Year admits that the Cats' All-Ireland semi-final against Tipperary in three weeks' time is no ordinary game.

"Obviously we lost in 2010 and wanted to prove a point last year," Fennelly added. "But maybe we have another point to prove -- we want to show that we can beat Tipperary two years in a row. They'll be doing the same -- they'll want to get back at us."

Richie Power, should be fit to face the Premier County in three weeks time. Power was removed from the action after a shuddering collision with Limerick's Wayne McNamara in the first half of Sunday's All-Ireland quarter final and was suffering from concussion.

Meanwhile, Richie Hogan is likely to accept his one match ban for being sent off for striking Sean Tobin with the hurl in the 58th minute.

Irish Independent

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