Ballyhale Shamrocks are used to having a hectic winter schedule.
The defending champions are gunning for an unprecedented eighth All-Ireland club title in 2020 and not many are ruling out the chances of Henry Shefflin’s charges completing the task.
The talent at their disposal is almost unfair to the rest of the competition. TJ Reid is arguably the best there is, Colin Fennelly is as potent as a full-forward can get, Adrian Mullen is the Young Hurler of the Year and Joey Holden is an All-Ireland winning captain.
Among all of them though stands one of the game’s biggest giants. An eight-time All-Ireland medalist and triple All-Star recipient, Michael Fennelly.
At 34, the elder Fennelly brother is the senior statesman of the team. He doesn’t train much with the club, given the extent of the serious injuries, he has faced throughout his career Fennelly is best held in reserve until matchday.
He’s also one of the busiest men in Ireland. The LIT lecturer is a PhD candidate in Leadership and Coaching. On top of that, he’s taken on the high-profile role of Offaly hurling manager at a time where the Faithful county need a boost more than most.
He’s still plugging along with Ballyhale while he’s also doing the most important job of all, being a father.
According to Joey Holden, nobody is more well-equipped to manage their own body than Fennelly. However, despite having played most of his career alongside the inspirational figure, Holden has no idea how he manages his heavy workload.
“Ah, he still plays but I suppose Mick has had a good few injuries down through the years. He’s probably the number one expert on how to manage his own load and how to manage his own body. But I don’t know, the man seems to have plenty of time, he’s doing all these things I don’t know,” Holden said at the AIB GAA All-Ireland semi-final media day.
“He’s managing Offaly, he’s doing a PhD and he’s got the child, I don’t know but he seems to be managing it very well, he must be very organised. Generally, I wouldn’t question him too much about it.”
The Kilkenny defender describes his former county teammate as an inspiration. Not just for how much he has already achieved or what he’s striving to achieve now but because despite all of this, he is still up and down the road giving his all to the Ballyhale cause.
“Absolutely, it’s definitely inspirational but considering he’s doing all that and he still strives to come back for Ballyhale, I think that’s the biggest inspiration.
“He’s mad to represent his community and his club, that’s the biggest inspiration even I get from it so some of the younger lads must be getting that as well.”
Holden continued by saying they don’t normally talk about Fennelly’s hectic schedule but rather try to find a weakness in it to slag him about.
“He’s generally not talking about it, you don’t normally talk about these things. It’s more going in and finding a weakness that you can slag with him but in the background, everyone looks up to Mick and he’s definitely the leader in our team.”
An inspiration to all young hurlers out there.