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'He's physically ready. He's mentally ready' - the next Ballyhale forward set for Kilkenny senior rise

Jackie Tyrrell has tipped Ballyhale’s Eoin Cody to make major strides this winter.

Eoin Cody in action for Kilkenny against Clare in February.
Eoin Cody in action for Kilkenny against Clare in February.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

THE BALLYHALE INFLUENCE on the Kilkenny hurling attack has been well-documented and with the onset of the 2020 winter championship, another member of the club’s forward line has been tipped to make the step up.

TJ Reid and Colin Fennelly are the lynchpins of the Cats forward line while 2019 Young Hurler of the Year Adrian Mullen is on the comeback trail from a cruciate injury that was sustained last spring.

And serial All-Ireland winner Jackie Tyrrell believes Eoin Cody has the capacity to graduate to that level as Kilkenny get set for their opener against Dublin in Saturday’s Leinster semi-final.

Cody burst to prominence in 2019 with 1-4 as the Shamrocks won the All-Ireland club semi-final against Ballygunner and 0-2 in the final victory over St Thomas. The following month he helped St Kieran’s win the Croke Cup, shooting 0-8 for his school in that decider.

This year has seen him collect another All-Ireland medal in January with Ballyhale, a Kilkenny senior honour in September when he shot 1-1 in the final and before lockdown he lined out for the county senior side against Clare and Laois, scoring 1-8 in the latter league tie.

“I would definitely comfortably stand over that Eoin Cody will play a role in the championship with Kilkenny this year. He’s ready for championship. He’s physically ready. He’s mentally ready. He is still young but the thing with these Ballyhale lads, he could come in there and play off a Colin and a TJ, who could do a little with him, talk to him, who’ve learned from Henry and they’re passing down to him.

eoin-cody-celebrates-scoring-his-sides-fifth-goal Eoin Cody celebrates after scoring Ballyhale's fifth goal in the Kilkenny county senior final. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“He’s not coming into an environment that he doesn’t know. There’s probably six or seven Ballyhale lads in there. I expect him to put his hand up this year. Outside of that it’s probably a big ask for a lot of them. Maybe Darren Mullen could be a bit of a dark horse because he’s been playing really consistent hurling and he’s a guy that’s made for the modern game of a corner-back being very comfortable on the ball, being able to carry the ball out, brilliant distribution.”

Away from the club heavyweights on Noreside, Tyrrell feels there are plenty emerging players in the Kilkenny ranks.

Jackie Tyrrell Littlewoods Jackie Tyrrell is a Littlewoods Ireland ambassador.

“What I would say on Kilkenny is a lot of good young lads coming now. Tommy Walsh has had a really good club campaign for Tullaroan, he’ll push strong for a place. Ciaran Wallace, another corner back, has had a really good league, I expect him to push. There’s a lot of competition there in the backs.

“But the big plus for Kilkenny is the form of Cillian Buckley and keeping him injury free. If he goes back in at six, well then you’ve Padraig Walsh goes to five or seven, eight or nine, maybe even at 10 or 11 or at 12, he’s just so flexible.”

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But away from the youngsters, it is the contribution of the TJ Reid-Colin Fennelly attacking axis that so much of Kilkenny’s hopes are pinned on.

cillian-buckley-tj-reid-and-colin-fennelly-celebrate TJ Reid and Colin Fennelly celebrating Kilkenny's 2015 All-Ireland club final victory. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Both All-Stars after their outings in black and amber colours in 2019, they have elevated their displays to a new level in 2020 on the club stage.

Their stirring form has struck Tyrrell.

“I’ve never seen them link up as much. They’ve always kind of played together, they’d always kind of look out for each other and the result is obviously that relationship. But what really struck to me is when TJ Reid caught that ball against James Stephens (in the Kilkenny semi-final) and turned his man. It was kind of half a look and to have that relationship and that trust in Colin, he was just like Colin has to get this.

“I believe it actually got to another level in that game. I believe in that moment it actually strengthened even further. TJ was so confident in Colin’s ability in how he was playing that the speed that he hit that ball to him. He had so much faith in Colin and I was actually surprised at how that was.

“TJ just continues to amaze, I suppose Colin has become really consistent the last two years.”

The42 GAA Weekly is here! Join hosts Shane Dowling and Marc Ó Sé as they preview Tipperary v Limerick, Donegal v Tyrone, and the rest of the weekend’s action:

Source: The42 Podcasts/SoundCloud

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Fintan O'Toole

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