Colin Fennelly knows he's under pressure to perform
By John Harrington
Since Kilkenny’s Leinster SHC Final victory over Galway, team captain Colin Fennelly has been doing all he can to get back into Brian Cody’s good books.
He was substituted 51 minutes into the Leinster Final after failing to make much of an impression on the game, and he’s long enough on the Kilkenny panel to know a poor performance in a big game is a short-cut to a seat on the bench for the next one.
Team manager Brian Cody’s policy has always been to reward form, and Fennelly was under no illusions after the Leinster Final that if he didn’t make a big impression in training in the two weeks before the All-Ireland semi-final that his status as team captain wasn’t going to give him any sort of immunity from being cut from the starting 15.
“You’d be under pressure all the time,” says Fennelly.
“For every game. people out there might think, 'Oh yeah, he’ll start this weekend'. It’s never the case. Grand if you think you played well but if you’re going bad in training, Brian always goes by training.
“He always says, “you’re as good as your last performance”. And the last performance is the last training session played.
“They are the ones we really work on. so yeah, we’ll be under pressure. That’s throughout the team.”
After Fennelly was substituted against Galway the tv cameras lingered on him while he took his seat in the stand and his disgust with his inability to impact the game was etched clearly on this face.
“I was certainly hugely disappointed with my own performance,” he said.
“I don’t think I contributed enough for the team in the game so certainly that was hugely disappointing. I was hard to see us breaking through, we just couldn’t break through Galway that whole game.
“When Richie Hogan got that goal (I was like) ‘What’s after happening here, like?’ It just totally opened up. Everybody has said it that it has changed the game and he did and a spark like that changes it.
“That’s probably the joy of what Brian Cody has at the moment, that he has those guys on the bench. He had other options there and it’s just great to have those options. At this stage, to have such a strong panel and have so many options to come in (is great).
“Me walking off, if I was disappointed it was because I was disappointed, I was absolutely gutted. I was speaking to Wally (Walter Walsh, who was also substituted) after the game and he was saying how disappointed he was (with his performance) and I was like, ‘Sure Wally, you’re not going to be happy so why have a smile on your face?’
“That’s just the way it was and after the game I was absolutely delighted. I was out hugging the lads, patting them on the back, just saying, ‘Thanks so much. Well done to put in such a huge performance’.
“The last 15 minutes was such a huge performance and I was absolutely delighted. For me, to get my hands on the cup was a dream come true and I was absolutely delighted no matter how I played. At the end of the day, it’s a team and panel performance on any given day.”
Fennelly is now in his 10th season with Kilkenny and has arguably never been a more important player for them.
For much of his career he played across a variety of positions in attack and midfield and at times he struggled for consistency, but he’s looked at his best since being given a home on the edge of the square at full-forward.
That position suits his combination of raw strength, speed of foot, and eye for a goal, and it has also better allowed him to recreate the instinctive understanding he enjoys with TJ Reid at club level with Ballyhale Shamrocks on the county scene with Kilkenny.
He scored 3-11 from play in last year’s Championship from full-forward which earned him a deserved All-Star award.
“The closer I am to goal is probably what I like about it,” says Fennelly of the full-forward position.
“I think it was probably two, three years ago, I was out of form with Kilkenny.
“Henry had taken over with Ballyhale at the time, he just spoke to me, said “what do you think?”
“I just said, “I maybe need to focus on one thing”. He said, “look, I want you to play full-forward for the year and really focus on that.”
“At times you’ll be in on that but that’s your main focus. Henry did a lot of work with me on that. Just give you small pointers throughout the year and I think that was a massive year for me.
“That’s three years ago now at this stage. I probably need to rethink things again. Again, from club to county, it’s a huge step up. There’s a huge difference there.
“But that certainly helped get my focus back on track. Things are always changing.
“We’re far from finished this year. I hope to finish on a good note.”