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'You won't win without strong leadership, he typifies that probably better than anyone I've seen'

Ex-Waterford captain Fergal Hartley hails the recently-retired Philip Mahony.

FORMER WATERFORD CAPTAIN Fergal Hartley admits he was taken by surprise at the decision of his club-mate Philip Mahony to retire from the inter-county game but feels a combination of a relentless playing schedule, commuting from Dublin in recent years and injuries influenced the move by the 28-year-old.

pjimage (5) Former Ballygunner boss Fergal Hartley and recently-retired Waterford hurler Philip Mahony.

Mahony’s departure from the Waterford senior ranks after nine seasons was revealed last Friday night at the outset of the 2020 campaign.

Hartley managed the Ballygunner team in 2018 that Mahony starred on as they lifted the Munster senior club crown.

“I met him over Christmas and he had hinted that he was considering his position. I did think he would go back so yeah a bit surprised. I think it was a shock across the county.

“Philip is a person who keeps his business to himself. For that reason it wouldn’t have been something that word would have spread or his thought process.”

philip-mahony Philip Mahony has called time on his Waterford hurling career.

Hartley, who captained Waterford to Munster hurling glory in 2002, pointed out to the volume of teams that Mahony has been involved in and the length of the hurling campaigns he has endured.

“You go back to his Harty days in De La Salle, then underage with Waterford, he won a minor Munster and straight through to U21, then colleges with UCC and won a Fitzgibbon there. Ballygunner since he started, he’s eight county medals. 

“So that’s eight Munster championship campaigns, in many cases he’s gone right to the end of the year on five occasions. You play a Munster final, you’re typically going into late November, early December in many cases.

“He’s packed a hell of a lot in nine years at inter-county. He’s a lot of mileage, a lot of injury problems as well, back problems, so he’s played through a lot of injuries. He was up in Dublin for a long time, commuting up and down, so it’s been a long, tough (time).

“He’s literally been playing constant hurling for nine years with no break. I think the days of lads like Tony Browne and Brick Walsh playing for as long as they’ve played, there mightn’t be as many of them again in the future.”

Now a teacher in De La Salle in Waterford, Mahony has suffered a couple of serious leg injuries. He missed the 2014 season when he sustained a double leg fracture and dislocated his ankle in May that year while last June he broke his tibia against Tipperary.

philip-mahony-injured Philip Mahony was forced to watch on for the 2014 championship. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“He’d be the kind of fella even when injured, he’d be literally doing everything to the book in terms of recovery,” says Hartley.

“So an injury for him wouldn’t be a break, it’d be (a.) a frustration and (b.) he’d see it as an opportunity to get himself back better than he was before he came out.

“It wouldn’t be a case he’d have a break to relax and enjoy things, he’d nearly go harder to try and catch up on lost ground. That’s the kind of guy he is. He’s the consummate professional.”

Hartley was part of the Ballygunner half-back line when Mahony started out, the pair featured in the 2009 Munster senior club final, and later managed the three-time All-Star nominee. He hails his leadership and influence on teams.

“I’ve been watching Philip since he was U11. Played with his father, played with him. Managed him at club senior and county U21. I’ve been involved with him and he’s a massively driven, committed guy. He’s not the half-back that’s pumping balls over the bar, two or three in a game, catching the headlines in that regard but he’s massively impactful in terms of the job that he has to do.

“Win ball, do the right things, be in the right places, a very clever and smart player. He always does the simple thing well, closes down space and never gets caught in possession. I would say he’s one of the best I’ve ever seen in terms of leaders and influence on a dressing-room.

phillip-mahony-celebrates-winning Philip Mahony celebrates Ballygunner's Munster title success in 2018. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“No matter what level of sport you’re playing, you won’t win without really strong leadership, he typifies that probably better than anyone I’ve seen. I mean that genuinely. An incredible influence and strong character and determined and resilient. Very much his own man and person but not in a difficult way, in a very determined way. Players respond to that.”

Mahony, who turns 29 this week, lost out to All-Ireland club finalists Borris-Ileigh in the Munster final last November with Ballygunner but Hartley feels he will remain a strong playing influence for the club.

“I would certainly hope so he’ll be playing for Ballygunner as long as he possibly can. He’s settled in Waterford here, he’s building a house.

“He’ll certainly be contributing for Ballygunner for a long time to come and hopefully that’ll be on the playing fields.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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