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Dublin: 10 °C Friday 6 December, 2019
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Offaly management set to be rivals as All-Ireland club hurling series takes shape

Michael Fennelly and Johnny Kelly involved with different clubs in the last four.

Busy schedule ahead for Michael Fennelly and Johnny Kelly.
Busy schedule ahead for Michael Fennelly and Johnny Kelly.
Image: INPHO

MICHAEL FENNELLY’S HURLING weekend began on a winning note and ended in similarly successful fashion.

He started out on the sideline as Offaly manager on Saturday afternoon in Birr as they accounted for Kildare in their Kehoe Cup opener and then was back on the pitch in O’Moore Park yesterday in the heart of the action as Ballyhale Shamrocks reached the Leinster club summit once more at the expense of Carlow’s St Mullin’s.

Fennelly lined out at centre-back for Ballyhale, his late dismissal for a second yellow card did not obstruct their path to victory as he captained them to success.

The success now sets up a frenzied schedule for the eight-time All-Ireland senior winner with Kilkenny. Double-jobbing between club and county over the winter months has become a familiar experience with Mickey Harte, Pat O’Shea, Anthony Cunningham and Mickey Graham all having had to combine such roles.

Fennelly’s experience is more unusual as he will be mixing playing with managing. He is well-versed in All-Ireland club campaigns, yesterday’s win was the sixth he has experienced with Ballyhale in a provincial decider. Only once in their previous five attempts (2009) have they failed to build on their Leinster progress and add a national win.

There is further intrigue for Fennelly in that one of his sidekicks in the Offaly managerial group will also be swapping between teams in the coming weeks. Johnny Kelly was drafted on board by Fennelly as coach of the Faithful side and he is also invested in the 2020 All-Ireland club hurling race as manager of Borris-Ileigh who enjoyed a glorious November in capturing Tipperary and Munster crowns in memorable fashion.

Fennelly and Kelly are on opposite sides of the semi-final draw with Ballyhale due to meet Derry’s Slaughtneil and Borris-Ileigh set to take on Galway’s St Thomas. The semi-finals are fixed for the weekend of 4-5 January with the final pencilled in for 19 January.

Offaly ran out 2-28 to 0-18 winners against Kildare in Saturday’s pre-season fixture at St Brendan’s Park. Fennelly and Kelly will be together on the sideline in Abbottstown on Sunday 15 December for their next Kehoe Cup tie against Down.

Aside from that they will have to juggle training sessions with their club and county outfits. If one of them advance to the All-Ireland final on 19 January, there will be little time for respite as Offaly’s league campaign commences the following Sunday with a Division 2A tie at home to Meath.

Hectic times ahead.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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