Fennelly says Kilkenny are going through a transition
By John Harrington
Michael Fennelly says that the Kilkenny hurling team is going through a period of transition and won’t be one of the favourites to win this year’s All-Ireland title.
He believes teams like Galway, Tipperary, and Waterford have a better balance of proven players and talented newcomers, but still hopes that Kilkenny will make forward strides in 2017.
“It's definitely a transition period, without a doubt, and it probably has been over the last year or two as well. But, yeah, look, teams like Galway, Tipperary, and Waterford, a lot of their players are now quite mature," he said.
“They're there a while now and they have a good balance of some youth and older players.
“So I think Kilkenny will take a bit of time to get up to those highs again, but I'm looking forward to see those players develop and improve and to give them a chance to set their own legacy and history.
“They won't be favourites to win an All-Ireland, but once they're improving and competitive, that's a big plus.”
Fennelly believes that Kilkenny can be successful in the coming years even though there aren’t any ‘All-Stars’ in the younger generation of players that have broken onto the panel.
The recently retired eight-time All-Ireland winner played with some of the greatest hurlers in the history of the game like Tommy Walsh, Henry Shefflin, and JJ Delaney.
But even though the current crop doesn’t boast players who were house-hold names by a young age, he still thinks they can make the grade.
“The potential is there, they just have to make it work,” he said.
“Again, there's no All-Stars as such that we would have seen before like Richie Hogan who would have been spotted when he was younger.
“Richie Power would have been spotted. Tommy Walsh would have been spotted.
“There's probably no stand-out players like that, but, again, you don't need that once you have a good bunch of players with good commitment, good values, and they're looking to push themselves and improve and develop, you never know where you'll end up if you have that.”
Fennelly took some time to establish himself as a regular in Brian Cody’s first choice 15 and was a substitute for the 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 All-Ireland Finals.
He believes that’s because he waited for things to happen rather than put his best foot forward, and he’s warned the young players currently on the Kilkenny panel not to make the same mistake.
“I would have actually sent a message when I finished up in the (Whatsapp) group there with that exact message,” said Fennelly.
“Saying basically I made a mistake when I first came in or I was a bit naive in terms of how I came in.
“I told them to just jump straight in there and don't be holding back for a year or two or three years thinking you'll get your place then at that time.
“I was coming up against the likes of Derek Lyng and people were saying to me when he retires I'd be in there.
“I was nearly kinding of waiting for it, to be honest. I waited and then Michael Rice came out midfield and then Cha came out midfield as well and I was like, 'Oh my God, this is a nightmare'.
“You're thinking, great, people are saying this, that this will happen for me. And you're probably waiting for it to happen instead of actually making it happen. That's something too psychologically that I would be very conscious of with younger players.
“You hear a lot of talk with the word potential. Potential is a good thing in one sense, but in another sense you haven't achieved anything yet really.”
*Michael Fennelly was speaking at the launch of Peptalk’s All Ireland Games, an inter-company well-being challenge that allows companies all over Ireland compete against each other. For more information check out http://www.peptalk.ie/all-ireland-games. *