Michael Fennelly hopes Kilkenny can unearth more new talent
By Cian O’Connell
Having invested significantly in developing emerging hurlers this year, Michael Fennelly is adamant that the future is bright in Kilkenny.
Allianz League glory was secured in April before embarking on a respectable Championship journey which was ended by ultimate champions Limerick at the quarter-final stage.
Former Cats star Fennelly, though, is hopeful that further new talent can be unearthed during the spring when Kilkenny will defend the League title they won in impressive fashion.
“I probably should have stayed on another four months myself to get that trip to Australia in November for winning the League,” Fennelly jokes when asked for his overall assessment on Kilkenny’s campaign.
“There was huge encouragement, the lads really stood up to maximise everything they had with the resources they had. The likes of the young lads such as Richie Leahy, they did step up to be fair to them. They need more match time without a doubt, young (Mossy) Keoghan at half-forward.
“I think maybe we had five or six debutantes against Dublin the first day and that was great to see. Hopefully we will have more of that next year in 2019 because we do need to blood new players.”
Introducing further players to the senior inter-county arena is critical according to Fennelly. “We have got to get them into the League early on, to see how they get on there, to try to get them up to match intensity and match fitness,” Fennelly admits.
“It is encouraging, we definitely do need another bunch coming through to challenge the lads that are there. Hopefully we will get them from some of the Under 21s from the last few years so people are encouraged.
“The boys were very competitive in every single game, they were massively competitive, they left everything out there until the 70th odd minute. Drawing with Galway was a huge result for them, it was one they could have won, and they could have bet Limerick as well.
“They aren't a million miles away at all, but they do need a couple of more players coming through.”
Fennelly acknowledges that the landscape has altered dramatically in the past decade because significant apprenticeships were served by several decorated Kilkenny players during his own career.
“Yeah, it is a different era, without a doubt,” Fennelly responds. “Back then we had a huge amount of players coming through over the space of four or five years. We had huge amounts of young fellas coming with huge amount of competition for places.
“That was all good, it was all positive, and it was a good environment to be in, frustrating as it was being a sub sometimes. Players were on and off the team, you had everyone competing. It was probably similar to the Dublin team at the moment in terms of competition for places which brings great health to a team.
“I suppose your focus is primarily not even on winning, it is more on making the team and performing to your best. That is a good mentality to have and hopefully Kilkenny will move on.
“We got to the minor final this year against Galway, the players went through a lot of games this year in the Electric Ireland Minor Championship. So that is very encouraging, while St Kieran's College and Kilkenny CBS are still doing well in the secondary schools.
“Hopefully that will continue so we can have more success in the years to come. We definitely do need a new cohort of young lads.”
Electric Ireland Minor Star Award’s Judge, Kilkenny hurler Michael Fennelly unveiled the 2018 Electric Ireland Minor Hurling Team of the Year. The Hurling and Football Teams of the Year will be awarded at the Electric Ireland Minor Star Awards, on 29 September in Croke Park, when the Hurling and Football Players of the Year will also be announced. As the culmination of Electric Ireland’s ‘This is Major’ campaign, the event is a major moment for the players and highlights the success achieved throughout the Championship. The Minor Star Awards will celebrate the talent of the players, as well as the dedication of the clubs, families, and communities that have supported them along the way.