The Ballyhale Shamrocks team celebrating their 2012 Kilkenny final win. Cathal Noonan/INPHO
Club Cats

The Tipperary duo masterminding Kilkenny kingpins Ballyhale's county final bid

Ballyhale Shamrocks take on Clara in today’s county senior hurling final.

ANDY MOLONEY AND Colm Bonnar were at the heart of the rivalrous Kilkenny-Tipperary exchanges last month.

The Tipperary natives have both previously hurled with their county which created a clear attachment to the Premier. The counterpoint is that they currently operate in Cats territory with Moloney the manager and Bonnar the coach of renowned Kilkenny club Ballyhale Shamrocks.

“There was a bit of slagging alright,” laughs Moloney. “It was more for Colm than myself. He played at a real top level in Tipperary whereas I’m gone from there since ’96. I’d have changed allegiances as it were in 2001 and became involved with Waterford.”

Moloney and Bonnar forged a hurling relationship some time ago in Waterford and came across Ballyhale men along the way.

“We worked together with WIT,” says Moloney. “I played on Fitz teams that Colm trained. I’d have played with Henry and Paul Shefflin, and Aidan Cummins as well in WIT. We’d some great days in winning the Fitz.

“Then later Colm asked me to come on board as a WIT selector. We won the Fitzgibbon in 2006 with Eoin Reid on that team while TJ Reid was on the team that won in 2008.”

Andy Moloney Andy Moloney managed the Waterford camogie team in the 2009 All-Ireland junior final. Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO / INPHO

Since the start of the year, Moloney has parked previous friendships and prioritised the well-being of Ballyhale. It’s a formula that’s worked well so far, today the South Kilkenny club head to Nowlan Park with a county senior title up for grabs.

“If we’ve to make decisions, we make them in the best interest of the team. I think the lads are all mature and they understand. It’s been an honour for myself and Colm to be involved. From the very start we got the feeling from the players that they wanted to get back to a county final. There’s been a massive effort put in.”

Ballyhale have shone on the club scene since 2006 with five Kilkenny titles, three Leinster clubs and two All-Ireland crowns. The new management faced the challenge of trying to motivate those successful players while also plotting a season that saw Henry Shefflin, TJ and Richie Reid, Michael and Colin Fennelly, and Joey Holden immersed in the Kilkenny setup.

Colin Fennelly and Michael Fennelly Michael and Colin Fennelly James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“Kilkenny’s season delayed things alright and we had to keep the club players enthused,” admits Moloney. “But they’re very good and focused so we kept on track. The way we set up the management was we’d selectors from other teams in the club – Pat O’Sullivan junior, Tommy Phelan intermediate and John Drennan minor.

“That crossover made it easier in terms of organisation. This Ballyhale group are brilliant in that they are ambitious. The younger lads coming in, the older lads are urging them on to break in to the team. Colm has done a great job in managing to keep them all fresh.”

Clara celebrate their win Last year's Kilkenny senior hurling champions Clara Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Their opponents today are on quite a winning run themselves. Clara were Kilkenny intermediate champions in 2013 before winning All-Ireland intermediate and Kilkenny senior titles last year.

“They’re on a brilliant run. I’d know Conor Phelan (WIT GAA officer) very well while David and Jack Langton have been involved with recent WIT Fitzgibbon teams under Colm.

“They’re a brilliantly well-drilled machine. You’ve Tom Mullally – from Mount Leinster Rangers last year – in charge of them along with Nicky Cashin who was a selector with Waterford. There’s a few really good players in Lester and Liam Ryan, and Keith Hogan is a serious freetaker. It’s a big challenge but one we’re looking forward to facing.”

This article was first published on 15 November at 07.45

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