Thursday 14 December 2017

Where are they now? Christy Heffernan: (Former Kilkenny hurler)

The hurling landscape looked considerably different 20 years ago when Christy Heffernan captained Kilkenny to victory over Dublin in the 1991 Leinster final.

It was Dublin's first Leinster final in over 25 years against a Kilkenny side that hadn't had their hands on the Liam MacCarthy Cup since 1983. Heffernan was on that 1983 side, and would also be part of the side that retook the trophy in 1992 and successfully defended it a year later.

"We had a lot of new faces, but then a bit of experience on board as well. But Dublin came hungry. They were a hungry, fresh team, and we were kind of rebuilding at the time.

"I remember distinctly towards the end of the game, it was very tight. Dublin got a 70 and the ball came into the Kilkenny goal and skidded off the ground. Michael Walsh at the last minute put out his hurl and saved, and the rest is history really."

Kilkenny won the game by two points.

That year they were narrowly beaten by Tipperary in the All-Ireland final, but the experience spurred them on to two consecutive All-Irelands. "The bitter taste of defeat that year, having gone so close, it was a motivation going forward," says Heffernan.

In 1982, as well as making the All Star team, he marked his first appearance in an All-Ireland final by scoring two goals in a comfortable victory over Cork.

In his 12 years with the county, the Glenmore man won four All-Ireland medals, seven Leinster titles and an All Star, as well as two Leinster medals with his club.

Dublin are now 40 years without a Leinster title and their only appearance since '91 was the defeat to the Cats in 2009.

"Dublin create a lot of chances but they've been hitting wide after wide. I think they've learned from that and improved. Anthony Daly has done a great job with them.

"I feel if Kilkenny wait for Dublin on Sunday, it could be a big mistake. They have to get stuck in from the word go. Having said all that, you also have to ask yourself how much appetite is left for that Kilkenny team.

"I hope it makes for a great game, because hurling needs that and it needs Dublin as well. It's good for the game that Dublin are there as a new face."

But he reckons it will be the Cats who emerge on top on today. "I would say Kilkenny by five. I would think that if they don't win by five, they'll lose the match."

He is now an insurance broker and estate agent in Waterford, where he has lived for 25 years.

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