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'I just felt it was the right time for me. I was never going to be hurling up until I was 35 or 36'

Joey Holden on his decision to retire from Kilkenny duty, and Ballyhale’s Leinster final this weekend.

Joey Holden of Ballyhale Shamrocks, Kilkenny, ahead of the AIB GAA Leinster Senior Hurling Championship final.
Joey Holden of Ballyhale Shamrocks, Kilkenny, ahead of the AIB GAA Leinster Senior Hurling Championship final.
Image: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

“CLUB IS NUMBER one,” Joey Holden says, as he eyes more success with Ballyhale Shamrocks.

Holden is Kilkenny’s last All-Ireland winning captain, but he called time on his inter-county career last month, just days after helping Ballyhale to their fourth county championship title in-a-row.

With his full focus on his club’s Leinster final against Clough-Ballacolla of Laois on Sunday, Holden was happy to open up further on his inter-county retirement decision this week.

The 31-year-old explained that he knew it was all over when the curtain came down on the Cats’ 2021. Brian Cody’s side exited the Liam MacCarthy race after losing out to Cork in August’s All-Ireland semi-final, and Holden was ready to depart from there.

“Once Kilkenny was over I knew that was it but I was keen to get back with the club and concentrate on that,” he said. “I was able to put it to the back of my mind and just focus on the club.

“Once we won the county final I was keen to get that message out because I know that the start of next season starts [in December], and the planning and preparation that the management team and players have to do in pre-season. So I just wanted to make sure that everyone was aware that I wouldn’t be a part of that.”

Many may question his decision to call time having only recently entered his thirties, but Holden felt the timing was right.

“I just felt it was the right time for me. I was never going to be hurling up until I was 35 or 36. I was satisfied with what I’d given. I didn’t really start a whole lot last year. I just felt I wouldn’t be giving that 100%, 99% would be no good for me. That 1% is the difference. It can be very difficult to give the best version of yourself if you’re not 100% cent committed.

“I didn’t want to be a player that was in there getting frustrated with not playing, and being a bad influence, or creating a bad atmosphere. I just felt I was happy enough with what I’d done. There are other things I’d like to look at in the future, and maybe I could start concentrating on them.”

Travelling and “other ventures” are two of such he notes, while he’s looking forward to being Kilkenny’s “number one supporter,” shouting them on from the sidelines.

Holden is hopeful they can get back to the top table despite Limerick’s recent dominance, stressing how quickly things can can change.

And he’s extremely proud reflecting on his own time in the black and amber.

“Some special times that you can look back on but I’m focused on the club now. Once this finishes maybe it’s a better time to look back over it all,” he adds, keen to bring the chat back to Ballyhale.

They had a great escape in last Sunday’s Leinster semi-final against St Rynagh’s, as Eoin Cody’s goal at the very death forced extra-time.

Holden says the Shamrocks were “steeped to get the goal” and “very, very lucky,” having previously thought they were “gone”.

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But the Shamrocks’ never panic motto served them well, and the journey continues in Croke Park this weekend. Holden is hopeful that “warrior” Colin Fennelly will be available to face Clough-Ballacolla, after a shoulder concern.

Ballyhale’s record outside Kilkenny is remarkable: they’ve won all 15 of their provincial and national games since 2012, lifting three Leinster titles and three All-Ireland crowns.

They now could become the first Leinster three in-a-row winners.

Holden shakes that off. “It would be nice to win a Leinster final the week before Christmas, whether it’s three-in-a-row or one-in-a-row.

“We can be under no illusions that it will be a serious battle against Clough and they’ll be bringing everything. We just have to hope that we perform to the best of our ability and that we can get the right result.”

- Additional reporting from Kevin O’Brien.


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Emma Duffy

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