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Ballyhale Shamrocks captain Colin Fennelly lifts the Tom Walsh Cup.
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Colin Fennelly announces Kilkenny retirement after winning 10th county title with Ballyhale
Fennelly opted out of the Kilkenny set-up in 2021 and will not be returning.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 8th 2021, 8:31 AM

COLIN FENNELLY CONFIRMED his inter-county retirement after collecting his 10th Kilkenny SHC title with Ballyhale Shamrocks yesterday.

Fennelly opted out of Brian Cody’s set-up this year and, after captaining Ballyhale to their fourth crown in succession, said his days in the black and amber were over.

Fennelly broke onto the Cats senior panel in 2011 and won four All-Irelands plus two All-Stars during his inter-county career.

“No, I’ll be finished up,” the 32-year-old said when asked if he planned on returning to the Kilkenny fold next year.

“I have had enough. I had a year to think about it and I am glad I took that time to think about it. I am happy playing with the club and there are so many young lads coming through. I had a great time playing with Kilkenny. Fantastic so it was.”

Fennelly was held scoreless during the victory over O’Loughlin Gaels in front of 5,104 at Nowlan Park but an unanswered blitz of 1-6 in the final quarter saw the champions over the line.

“That was the essence of a top team performance,” said Fennelly. “Everyone on the team stepped up when needed. Different players showed for us at different times.

“Eoin Reid, who has been injured for the last three games, caught a vital ball that was crucial. TJ did wonderful things as usual. Everyone performed.

“O’Loughlin’s were wonderful in the first half. Every ball we got on they swarmed us. At half-time the simple message for us was that they were working harder than us.

“It wasn’t that we weren’t trying during the first half. They were literally on top of us on every ball, and they showed how really good they are.”

It took Ballyhale a long time to stamp their authority on this one.

They trailed a resolute O’Loughlin’s by five near the end of the first-half and despite scoring two goals in as many minutes from wing-forwards Joe Cuddihy and Adrian Mullen, were 2-14 to 2-13 behind at the second water-break.

“We knew that in order to get goals here it was going to be hard to work it between the lines because they were really closing down and it was getting very bunched around the middle,” said manager James O’Connor.

“So we just decided we’d get some ball inside and if we got a break off one of them, and thankfully, look, two goals came off of breaks there.”

Joey Holden made a vital intervention to clear Paddy Butler’s shot off the line at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Between the 46th and 53rd minute, Ballyhale turned a one-point deficit into an unassailable eight-point lead. It was enough of a cushion to survive the concession of 1-1 in second-half stoppage-time.

It was Fennelly’s second involvement in a four-in-a-row with Ballyhale, having previously achieved the feat from 2006-09.

“That is amazing. It is something you couldn’t even think about. You would get butterflies in your stomach at the thought of it. To stand here now and know we have achieved it is an amazing feeling.”

He admitted it was a different experience than a year earlier, when crowd numbers were greatly restricted for their final victory. 

“It’s great, to see all the family and friends, it’s completely different. You win matches but when you see your family and friends it means so much more to everyone.”

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Before Fennelly was handed the trophy at the presentation, the Kilkenny official on the microphone wished Ballyhale well in the Leinster and All-Ireland series, accidentally pre-empting a provincial success.

Ballyhale won’t be taking anything for granted and their sights will quickly turn to retaining their Leinster crown.

“Definitely,” he said. “I won’t be stopping with the club, that is for sure. The Leinster championship is very much on our radar now.

“We are out in three weeks time and we will be looking forward to it. We will enjoy this moment, and for the week and then we will get back to training. We are after doing the second four in-a-row.

“This is my 10th championship win. Myself, Eoin Reid and TJ, three of us left of the first one. This is an amazing feeling. I am delighted for the club and team.”

- Originally published at 6.05am, updated at 8.30am to appear on The Journal.

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