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Dublin: 4 °C Monday 25 March, 2019
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A delay to role as Kilkenny captain but an All-Ireland club final prize to look forward to

TJ Reid’s focus will stay with his club Ballyhale for the next month.

TJ Reid celebrates Saturday night's victory for Ballyhale Shamrocks with club chairman John Kenneally.
TJ Reid celebrates Saturday night's victory for Ballyhale Shamrocks with club chairman John Kenneally.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

WHEN KILKENNY SIGNED off on their springtime schedule in 2018, TJ Reid was their undisputed star.

As the county’s fans celebrated in Nowlan Park, no one had done more than Reid to shape the outcome of that league title win.

Reid shot 0-15 in that final victory against Tipperary, a return embellished by the fact that it matched the amount he had posted on the board in the semi-final with Wexford.

Fast forward 12 months and Reid’s schedule is somewhat different. Last month it was announced that he would be nominated to captain Kilkenny this season, his second time taking on that mantle after being leader in 2010.

But commitments closer to home have tied up Reid. An All-Ireland club semi-final date ensured he would miss Kilkenny’s opening league ties against Cork and Clare.

And with Ballyhale passing that test against Ballygunner on Saturday, Reid will be focused away from Kilkenny until 17 March.

With the hurling league final pencilled in for 24 March, it seems likely that Kilkenny will have to operate without their captain until the onslaught of summer championship fixtures but for Reid it is a welcome complaint.

“Look any time you’re involved with your club it’s a great place to be. Obviously your club is where you started and it’s where you finish as well. I’m enjoying my time with Ballyhale. We’re still training as hard as the boys inside. We’re fully concentrating on Ballyhale.

“In fairness to Brian (Cody) and the management team, he gave us that leeway to go off enjoy club and then once you win or lose, well then you come back to us then. So in fairness he’s not too bad that way, he’s not too ruthless!

“We’re enjoying ourselves, playing Ballygunner in Thurles in an All-Ireland semi-final is where you want to be. Other clubs are getting ready for two league games in April so for us to be getting ready for an All-Ireland final is way better.”

There is a marked contrast for Reid from when he first sampled All-Ireland club final day in 2007. Back then he was a teenager shooting 2-2 as Ballyhale overcame Loughrea. They have maintained that winning run since with victories in Croke Park in 2010 and 2015. Now Reid is the elder statesman as he chases his fourth medal next month.

“The average age is probably 22, 23 I’d say. Mick Fennelly, myself (and) Eoin my brother, we’re the only lads over 30. Definitely winning the county final gave them great belief. I think winning the U21 last year (2017) gave those boys a great sense of belief and confidence as well.

“You saw this year all those young lads all stepped up. This year everything was new, new management, new trainer, there was a bit of freshness there as well. There’s massive transformation in the last three years.

“We love it, Paddy’s Day is a day that we really look forward to. Down through the years, it’s been a tradition for Ballyhale Shamrocks I suppose in terms of the old team and now the new generation coming through.”

On Saturday Reid provided the requisite leadership for Ballyhale in the opening quarter. He finished up with 0-4, just the one from play, and saw other attackers around him like his brother Eoin, Adrian Mullen and Eoin Cody all sparkle as the match unfolded.

“Look it’s great to have Adrian Mullen there, he’s well able to win his own ball. I think he caught two or three puckouts, fast on his feet, well able to score. Eoin Cody I think 1-4, Eoin (Reid) scored a few as well, Paddy Mullen popped over (points).

“It’s great to have scoring forwards around you. If I’m marked and I’m able to create space for the other forwards, I suppose I’m helping the team. I didn’t score much but those days happen in sport. But my role was to work for the team and the end result is we’re in an All-Ireland final.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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