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Tony Kelly Hails Impact Of Ex-Clare Footballer In Ballyea Victory

Tony Kelly Hails Impact Of Ex-Clare Footballer In Ballyea Victory
By PJ Browne
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Ballyea won their third Clare senior hurling title on Sunday with a one-point victory over Inagh-Kilnamona. They did so without Tony Kelly, not only their best player, but one of the best hurlers in the country.

The 2013 Hurler of the Year - who could win his third All-Star next month - has struggled with an ankle injury recently. He underwent surgery on the ankle after making an appearance in Ballyea's quarter-final win against Kilmaley last month.

"Maybe if it went to penalties [I might have come on]," Kelly joked with Clare TV after the game.

"I won't be around till the new year. I wasn't needed today. I had great confidence in the lads, especially with how they prepared all week, and the week before."

14 November 2021; Tony Kelly of Ballyea, centre, before the Clare Senior Hurling Championship final against Inagh-Kilnamona at Cusack Park in Ennis, Clare. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

In particular, Kelly hailed the impact which former Clare footballer Gary Brennan has had in this championship. Brennan scored two points from play in the 1-17 to 1-16 win on Sunday.

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"Gary Brennan has been the best club hurler in the county this year," he said.

"He's just a different specimen of an athlete.

"His birth cert must be wrong. They're saying he's 32 or 33, but he's running around there like he's a 19-year-old.

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"He's a fantastic player, a fantastic leader for us as well, and a sound man."

Sensational Gary Brennan point in Clare SHC final

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Kelly added that his side did not take the easiest route to winning their latest Clare title.

"You want to be playing," he said.

"As long as you are winning, it doesn't matter whether you are a supporter up in the stand or part of the subs or management. Once you are from Ballyea, you are delighted with that result.

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"We knew that we had the hurling. A lot was made of our experience in the lead up to the final. I think we needed every ounce of it to see out the end. Thankfully, we got a miracle score from Cathal O'Connor out on the sideline. I've never seen that before. Marty came up trumps for us again in a county final, so we're delighted.

"We're delighted to win. I think that's our fourth game winning by a point this year, and we drew the other one. We don't do things easy.

"I'm thrilled for everybody involved. Especially all the lads that didn't get on today. They gave one hell of a match the last day in training."

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