Sunday 15 September 2019

Inside Back: Where are they now? Kevin Fennelly, hurler

Kevin Fennelly (All-Ireland-winning Ballyhale and Kilkenny hurler)

All-Ireland-winning Ballyhale and Kilkenny hurler Kevin Fennelly
All-Ireland-winning Ballyhale and Kilkenny hurler Kevin Fennelly Newsdesk Newsdesk

When Kevin Fennelly senior helped set up Ballyhale Shamrocks in 1971 by amalgamating the parish's teams of Knocktopher and Ballyhale, he wasn't just founding a new team, he was laying the cornerstone of a dynasty. His sons and grandsons have been the backbone of the most successful hurling club of the past 40 years.

Kevin Fennelly junior and his six brothers hurled for the Shamrocks and even more remarkably, all seven of them have three All-Ireland club titles. Their story and that of their club are indelibly linked.

"We won our first senior county title in 1978 and we won Leinster that year too but lost the All-Ireland to Blackrock of Cork. I played against Frank Cummins that day who I had won minor county championships with in Kilkenny before he became a garda and was stationed in Cork. After that I went on to win eight more county titles. We also won four Leinster titles and three All-Ireland club championships. Six of us started in the 1981 final but Dermot came on against Kinnitty and then we all played in the '84 and '90 finals against Gort and Ballybrown, which we won."

Fennelly's hurling career wasn't all about Ballyhale although the club played a large part in it. He also won three All-Ireland crowns with Kilkenny, four Leinster Championships and two National Hurling Leagues.

He was manager of the Kilkenny team for 1998, when they won their first Leinster title in five years, before handing control to his cousin Brian Cody.

Ballyhale has continued to supply Kilkenny with fine hurlers, including the greatest of all, Henry Shefflin. He will line out for the Shamrocks in today's Leinster final alongside the next generation of the Fennellys to add to the family's already illustrious history as Kevin's nephews, Michael and Colin, who have both continued another family tradition in captaining Kilkenny to All-Ireland glory.

"I think the Shamrocks will get through but Offaly teams have a good record in the club championships and I rate them. They love being underdogs and that bothers me a bit about today's game. The Shamrocks have more forwards than Kilcormac-Killoughey but the Offaly champions are a better team than Kilmacud," cautions Fennelly, who, after spells managing in Wexford and Tipperary, will lead Paulstown in the junior championship next year, the latest stop on a management career that began when he was just 25.

Quote of the week

'I have great difficulty with the French, I have never seen such arrogant, smug, lying and hypocritical people'

- In trying to defend former team-mate Thierry Henry, Emmanuel Petit ends up offending the entire French nation

Number of the week


The amount in euro that Kilkenny man David Morris earned for reaching the last 16 of the UK Championship, one of snooker's triple crown events, last week

Have your say

Hunt so wrong on GAA fitness levels

For a player who fell well short of the real top standard in the English soccer Premier League, Stephen Hunt now seems to be the self-appointed spokesman, in the media, for the players in that league.

In your paper on last Sunday, he claims that the top GAA players could not live up to the level of commitment required to play in that totally over-rated league. What a load of rubbish.

Looking at many of the so-called top Premier League players strolling around their small little pitch and throwing themselves on the ground at the slightest contact, or even no contact, I would suggest that the opposite is the case.

How many of those players could cope with the regime of a full inter-county training programme, then drive home, sometimes long distances, and report for a full day’s work or college the next day? From what I have seen, I think very few. They do not have the time for all the rest that Stephen seems to think he needs. The Waterford man talks about being a professional footballer which only means he gets paid for what he does. It is now a well-known fact that the level of commitment and dedication shown by inter-county hurlers and footballers would surpass that of many “professional” sportsmen and women.

In the compromise rules series, which I think is a complete waste of time, the Ireland team have won the last quarter in practically all of the recent games This is despite the fact that they were competing against full-time professional players who I would suggest would leave the Premiership soccer players in the shade when it comes to fitness levels.

In the recent game Ireland overran a full-strength Australian outfit in the last quarter but lost the game because of very poor shooting so fitness was certainly was not an issue.

Stephen claims he spent five grand for an hour’s consultation to have his head sorted out. He doubts if it worked. I would doubt it too.

Matt Aherne

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