Friday 24 November 2017

Where are they now? Joe Hennessy (Former Kilkenny hurler)

Kilkenny has a rich tradition of producing talented hurlers and Joe Hennessy is no exception. He played for Kilkenny between 1976 and 1988, winning three All-Ireland senior titles as well as five All-Stars. He was described by Joe Connolly, the distinguished Galway captain, as "a real stylist and lovely hurler all round."

Hennessy looks back on his hurling endeavours fondly. "Representing my county and club over 20 years, that's as good an honour as it gets. I've no regrets; if I had it back now, I would do it all again." Though his career is littered with honours, the 1982 All-Ireland final against Cork is a particular highlight. "We were complete underdogs, but we won quite comfortably. That was a special occasion."

As Hennessy accepts, many players struggle to find an outlet after retiring. "All of a sudden they're looking at the kit bag in the corner and not filling it anymore." However, Hennessy has not fallen foul of this particular pitfall having become involved in masters handball. He competed in the world handball championships with Mayoman Kevin Geraghty in the US last year, making it as far as the semi-finals. His regular playing partner is fellow Kilkennyman Johnny Brennan, and they have won three All-Irelands together.

Hennessy is now retired from the oil business. He lives in Kilkenny near his club James Stephens and still follows them at all levels. He is a dedicated clubman at heart, part of the reason he has so much admiration for the current vintage of Kilkenny hurlers. "They deserve every honour that comes their way because they hurl as hard for their clubs as they do for their county, and that's why they're respected so much."

Even though he thinks players gave all they had to the sport back in his day, he still feels the attitude and professionalism of modern players is a world apart. "Frank Cummins, one of our midfielders in the 1982 All-Ireland final, worked in demolition. He was knocking a wall with a sledgehammer down in Cork until five to 12 the night before the final and only got the train up to Dublin the morning of the match. I doubt you would see that nowadays."

He believes Kilkenny should be able to go all the way again this year. "I'm not being over-confident or boastful, but they're the team to beat."

Sunday Independent

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