Hegarty calls Tony Kelly the greatest hurler produced in Clare

Hegarty calls Tony Kelly the greatest hurler produced in Clare

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The Ballyea Senior Hurling management (L-R); Fergal Hegarty, Diarmuid O'Sullivan, Raymond O'Connor & Robbie Hogan. Pic: Martin Connolly
The Ballyea Senior Hurling management (L-R); Fergal Hegarty, Diarmuid O’Sullivan, Raymond O’Connor & Robbie Hogan. Pic: Martin Connolly

Two-time All-Ireland senior hurling medallist with Clare, Fergal Hegarty has labelled Tony Kelly as the greatest hurler to be produced in Co Clare.

This year Hegarty has taken on the role of trainer with the Ballyea senior hurlers and it means he has got to work a lot more closely with the 2013 Hurler of the Year. From his time going to matches for the past forty years or so, no player comes close to matching Kelly.

“I think he’s the best hurler in Clare that I’ve ever seen and I’m watching hurling since my father brought me to matches in the late seventies, I think he’s the best player Clare has ever produced, arguably he’s up there as one of the greatest hurlers in this generation aswell, it’s the character when the need was greatest Tony will come up with the scores and the scores he got today were roy of the rover stuff”.

“You’ve to remember that Tony is man marked and double marked a lot of the time, he keeps working he puts in a lot of hooks and blocks that people mightn’t see, no one can ever question Tony’s workrate which is a great thing about him” he added of the County man who got a personal tally of 1-10 in the game.

Ballyea's Tony Kelly. Pic: Martin Connolly
Ballyea’s Tony Kelly. Pic: Martin Connolly

Last week all involved with Ballyea spoke of their desire to get more goals, they did last week with two inside the first fifteen minutes, they bettered that again seven days later with two green flags in the opening six minutes.

“We had an unbelievable start with the two goals, a week is a short time to turn things around but the energy from the two goals kept us going then they came into it and halfway through the second half it was definitely going away from us but these lads have showed unbelievable resilience all year and character is always what you want but they showed it in abundance to come back, Gary’s goal was an exceptional goal, what a man to take it on from where he took it, hit it off his weaker side and top of the net unbelievable” the Kilnamona man said.

Such is the fitness levels of goalscorer, Fergal thought he had another hour in him after extra time had concluded. “The goal he got was unbelievable but he had been working very hard and caught a few great balls under pressure, he ran at them and showed the man is a fitness fanatic and he could have played another game there that’s the type of guy he is”.

One week on from collecting their first ever senior championship, there was a worry celebrations would have got in the way of Ballyea’s preparations for this tie. In fact Hegarty says the players took part in one of their toughest training sessions of the year this week and were still hungry for more.

“We got them back on Wednesday night and we did a fair hard session probably one of the hardest ones we did all year and then we had a very light session on Friday. Lads had to celebrate, you don’t win championships too often and in Ballyea’s case it was their first one, they knuckled down unbelievable Wednesday night and we felt they were up for it on Wednesday and they showed it today. The more I threw at them the more they wanted and that’s a great sign. I think it’s a famous win not just for Ballyea but for Clare hurling”.

Ballyea’s mentality and character has been central to their glory. The trainer behind their success gives an example of how relaxed the players were in the dressing room before extra time.

“They’re a gas crowd, they never get too carried away, they were smiling and joking, I said something about ‘there’s no yellow cards in this half and they were all null and void’ and Jack Browne says ‘why are you looking at me’, that was the kind of devilment and spirit we had today”.

Early on they lost both Martin O’Leary and Brian Carrigg to injury, Hegarty was disappointed to see the pair make way but was thrilled to see other panellists getting an opportunity in a Munster semi-final. “When two players had to go off so early it was always a worry, we brought on plenty of subs there today and they all contributed which is a very pleasing thing because these lads have trained just as hard as the starting fifteen”.

Winning in the manner that they did will bring huge momentum for the provincial decider in two weeks time when they play Glen Rovers according to the former Clare forward. “We’ll always be up against it but we’ll knuckle down now for two weeks, get a lot of momentum from today and we’re there on merit and we’ll enjoy it. Munster championships don’t come around too often and we’re delighted to come out on the right side of it”.

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