Ex-Kilkenny player was Ballyhale's secret weapon
By John Harrington
TJ Reid has revealed that Ballyhale Shamrocks enlisted the help of an ex-Kilkenny county hurler to help them prepare for Sunday’s AIB All-Ireland Club SHC Final against Borris-Ileigh.
Ballyhale had struggled at times in the All-Ireland semi-final against Slaughtneil’s seven-man defence, and knew they’d be up against a sweeper system again in the All-Ireland Final against Borris-Ileigh.
So, to best prepare for that challenge, they brought in an ex-Kilkenny player to play as a sweeper in a couple of training matches.
Reid declined to reveal though who that player was.
“It's private, it’s confidential so it is,” said Reid. “He's an ex-player. In terms of preparation you have to prepare very well, and that was great preparation going in for us.
“We didn't deal with it (the sweeper system) so well against Slaughtneil so we knew we had two weeks to try to focus on that and make sure our preparation was going according to plan.
“The game-plan was to bring him (the ex-county player) in. It takes great character for an ex-Kilkenny hurler to come into training and play alongside Ballyhale lads.
“Again, it's not down to players, it's down to management, selectors, physios, the volunteers making sandwiches and tea over the last few weeks.
“And then the ex-Kilkenny player came in and helped us achieve something special today as well.”
Kilkenny clubs swept the boards in the AIB All-Ireland club championships this year with Ballyhale Shamrocks winning the senior, Tullaroan winning the Intermediate, and Conahy Shamrocks winning the Junior.
Reid believes all those club successes will give the inter-county team a boost ahead of the new season.
“Yeah, it's great. Back in 2011 O’Loughlin Gaels, John Lockes and Dicksboro lost finals, so that was probably playing around in Kilkenny.
“I didn’t look at the games Saturday night because when you’re playing you’re focused on that.
“Now, it’s great that all the clubs representing Kilkenny all achieved success. I’m sure the Conahy and Tullaroan lads are celebrating. It's a fabulous time for Kilkenny.
“2020 looks bright for Kilkenny so far in terms of the club scene, and it will give great belief and confidence going forward to Kilkenny's (inter-county) season this year.
“Obviously Brian has a job to pick then in terms of talent from Conahy, Tullaroan, and from Ballyhale. So, yeah, it's looking good so far.”
Reid will surely make a quick return to the Kilkenny panel now, but in the aftermath of Sunday’s All-Ireland Club title win wasn’t fully sure exactly when he will join up with Brian Cody’s panel.
“I'll be back of course. But, look, I haven't a clue what’s going on, I wasn't talking to Brian or his selectors. For the last couple of months I was fully concentrating on Ballyhale Shamrocks.
“Brian, in fairness, leaves the Ballyhale lads alone until we win or lose (the Final). If I'm called back I'll pop back in!”