KILKENNY’S MIDFIELD POWERHOUSE Michael Fennelly believes the decision to hold some training sessions behind closed doors in the wake of their stunning Leinster final loss to Galway was critical to the Cats getting their 2012 campaign back on track.
Brian Cody’s side returned to winning ways in Sunday’s All-Ireland quarter-final against Limerick and they had used the three-week hiatus since the Galway game intelligently to regain focus in their camp. Kilkenny’s training sessions have become famed for the large crowds that flock to Nowlan Park to witness them but instead it was just the management and players in attendance.
“It was just refocusing the heads,” Fennelly told TheScore.ie. “Sometimes you can’t have crowds at training as a distraction. We just got back down to business. We did a few sessions behind closed doors but it was nothing different for us than usual. We just had to get some business done. We’re in a different area now and have to rethink the heads now for the semi-final.”
Fennelly revealed that appearing in an All-Ireland quarter-final was a new challenge that Kilkenny embraced but felt they were in a precarious position when they only lead by a point at the interval.
“It was a new area for us, playing in a quarter-final and going through the backdoor. There was a bit of excitement as a result of that. Only a point up with a wind having been behind us at half-time was a bit frightening. At half-time today you could have said we were facing into our last 35 minutes of the season.
“We weren’t really going as well as we do and it was a bit unnerving coming up to half-time. At the break we just said ‘let’s stand up here – whoever wants this game go out there and give it everything’. We said to lads if they ran out of diesel, put your hand up and come off. Our attitude was to go out and empty the tank and that’s what lads did.”
The match provided Fennelly with valuable game time after suffering an injury in their league final success over Cork in May and being subsequently sidelined.
“I was just delighted to get through it. At the start of the game, I was thinking if I got to half-time that I’d be happy enough. The momentum got me through the game as the fitness goes out of your head. I just wanted to get stuck in from the word go, concentrate on the basics and chase every ball.
“It was painful to watch the last few months. You’re there but you can’t do anything and you can’t come on. You don’t even feel part of it. You’re not even togged out. It’s great to get back in the jersey today and play today. I was just glad for the management to give me a game.”
And now Kilkenny can get themselves set for another potentially titanic clash with Tipperary on August 19th in the All-Ireland semi-final.
“It’s those big games that you look forward to. We’ll be hungry as ever for that game and so will Tipperary. Obviously we lost in 2010 and wanted to prove a point last year. But maybe we have another point to prove – we want to show that we can beat Tipperary two years in-a-row. Tipperary are going well but they haven’t actually peaked yet so we could be running into the peak of Tipp soon enough.”
Kilkenny are likely to have Richie Power back for that game after he was forced off in the aftermath of a collision with Limerick defender Wayne McNamara on Sunday. But fellow attacker Richie Hogan will miss out through suspension and TJ Reid is his likely replacement.