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Regret From Early Kilkenny Days Stuck With Michael Fennelly

Regret From Early Kilkenny Days Stuck With Michael Fennelly
By PJ Browne Updated
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A career which featured eight All-Ireland title wins and a Hurler of the Year award in 12 seasons probably has fewer regrets than others. Still, Kilkenny great Michael Fennelly does have at least one.

"I didn't get my teeth into it," Fennelly told the Electric Ireland GAA Minor Moments podcast about joining the Kilkenny senior hurling panel in 2006.

"There were so many good players ahead of me. I was carrying some groin issues going into the season as well, and around that first year missed some of the pre-season - important training in terms of getting fit.

"Then when I was back training, I probably wasn't fit enough, wasn't going overly well. The physicality of it, at that time, was unbelievable, from memory.

"I used to hold back in the running sessions. It was to not show up another player or something like that. I was in a funny mindframe. Thankfully, I got some sense as the year progressed.

"Definitely, over the first number of months, I definitely held back, and I shouldn't have [done that]. I should have just went straight for it, and straight at it.


2 April 2006; Michael Fennelly, Kilkenny, in action against Fergal Healy, Galway. Allianz National Hurling League, Division 1B, Round 5, Galway v Kilkenny, Pearse Stadium, Galway. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

"Instead, I was sitting in the background, seeing what would happen, waiting for something to happen instead grabbing it myself. It was probably immaturity, probably playing with some unbelievable players, and being taken aback by that.


"It was probably daunting, but also feeling, 'Am I good enough for this? I might be sub for a while because it's not my turn to get on the field'. I probably didn't have that belief. I might have been needed to be told, 'You're in here now. The jersey is there for anyone who wants it.'"


Two years after retiring from Kilkenny duty in late 2017, he entered inter-county management with Offaly. The need to not hold back was something he tried to instil in players during his three years in charge of the county's senior hurling panel.

"That was something that stuck with me," he said.


"Anytime I brought in a new player or young player with Offaly, I'd always say to them, 'You might be here for one year, two years, three years - who knows - but just go for it, and see where it brings you'."

6 June 2021; Ben Conneely of Offaly is congratulated by Offaly manager Michael Fennelly after the Allianz Hurling League Division 2A Round 4 match between Offaly and Down at Bord na Móna O'Connor Park in Tullamore, Offaly. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Fennelly, who won an All-Ireland minor title with Kilkenny in 2003, also had some advice for those playing at that grade now.

"You're only minor for one or two years," he said.

"You'll move on then to U20. Don't take it for granted. It's a very special time, a very special grade, and competition. Make sure you enjoy it.


"Don't be looking back at mistakes. Don't be looking back at games that didn't go too well.

"In my experience, I didn't start too well during minor in the first couple of months - I struggled. A position became available in midfield, because I was training for the backs, and it opened up for me.

"Even though things might not be going too well for you, keep at it, keep doing the basics. It will fall for you eventually, especially if you are out of form."


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