Should Ballyhale Shamrocks prevail over St Thomas’ on Sunday, it would result in a third club All Ireland medal for Joey Holden, to add to his two All Ireland titles with Kilkenny.
Given that he only made his senior debut for the Cats in 2014, that’s not a bad return.
The former captain has cemented his place in the Kilkenny defence and while he often divides his time between wing-back and full-back, he continues to be grateful for the opportunity to wear the black and amber jersey, regardless of the position.
“It’s not for me to decide. If you can get a number from 1 to 15, take it, enjoy it, hold onto it, cherish it and do the best that you can.
“It doesn’t really matter what number, if it’s below 15, you’re doing well, if it’s not, you drive on the lads that are on the 15 and try and make the panel, and that’s both with Kilkenny and Ballyhale.”
While the sight of Holden bossing the Kilkenny defence has become the norm, the school teacher endured a very unconditional route to his success. Having failed to make it at minor and U21 level, the 28-year-old had to prove himself at club level before receiving that all-important call from Brian Cody.
“I would have been called in for a trial but I would have dropped fairly quick. Listen, I wasn’t at that level, there’s no point in lying and saying I was. I didn’t think I was at that level when I was brought into the Kilkenny panel but I developed and things started moving along quicker.
“I’d probably put it down to marking Henry and TJ in club training and learning so much off marking those lads. Things started clicking with you then, things start going right and you get confidence.
“I remember one game, I just couldn’t do no wrong, I went up to catch the ball and then I came down and the ball was in my hand – it was just one of them things. Things just started clicking, you probably train so hard that these things just become automatic. I suppose it’s when you’re not thinking sometimes, that’s when you’re at your best. You just go out and hurl and do your best.
“Some days, things haven’t gone right for me, other days, they have. Listen, it’s only a game of hurling. When I started at U11, they threw in a little white ball and they’ll throw in a little white ball on Paddy’s Day, it’s still a game of hurling!”
On March 17, Holden will have to prove himself once again as Kilkenny and Galway renew their rivalry, only this time, it’s at club level. Given the memorable battles between the two sides at inter-county level over the past number of years, Holden is expecting a very tight encounter on Sunday against the 2013 champions.
“It’ll be a titanic battle again. St Thomas’ have won two of the last three Galway titles, they got pipped by a point another year in one of the quarter-finals so they’re ultra-competitive in championship games, they won the club All Ireland in 2013.
“I think overall Galway probably have the upper hand in the amount of club All Irelands Galway teams have won so they’re always competitive. We just hope we can match the experience that they have. I know they’ve a lot of lads, nine or 10 who would have played in the last All Ireland, we don’t have as many.
“We hope we can match their experience and match their work rate and hopefully, we’ll try and pip them at the end of the day and try and put it up against them as best we can.”
First up on March 17th is the hurling final, where six-time winners Ballyhale Shamrocks, represented by Joey Holden, will face off against St. Thomas’ of Galway, represented by Conor Cooney, who, following their maiden Galway success in 2012, went on to collect a first All-Ireland title in 2013. In what promises to be a scintillating club hurling final, the action is due to throw-in at 2pm.