Tony Kelly may be the household name in the Ballyea senior hurling team but one teammate has also been doing his bit when it comes to stealing the headlines for the men in Black and Amber.
As they collected their first ever Clare SHC title and subsequent Munster crown, Niall Deasy has been to the fore with the twenty two year old playing the best hurling of his career to date.
While he didn’t get on the scoresheet in their drawn county final with Clonlara, Deasy has made up for since notching 1-15 in their last three outings. Scoring is of course essential to win but he has shown he can do a lot more than put the sliotar over or under the posts.
In the concluding stages of their Munster semi-final win over Thurles Sarsfields, Niall won possession in the corner of Cusack Park, with the game in the melting pot he opted to hit the ball off his Tipperary counterpart and win a 65 which was slotted over. Winning the placed ball was as good as any score especially as it came at a crucial stage.
Niall is unique in a sense, given that he is playing with two club teams in different counties. As well as Ballyea, he is also lining out with Dublin club Parnells. He explains how this transpired.
“After the first round of the championship, we’d three months with no games coming up and I don’t think there was any league games in Clare. So I decided to join Parnells to be able to play league games up in Dublin and I was training with them all year. I think it’s a great thing to be able to do in the GAA, to play non-championship games in another county if you’re working there. Clare is a three-and-a-half hour drive home, three-and-a-half hours back up, to be able to train or play league games.”
Playing for two teams results in more games, something he credits when asked about his impressive displays for his Clare club. “Ballyea have been great for me, they don’t put any pressure on me to do anything really, they just allow me to do my own thing. If you want to go training do, if you don’t don’t bother, there’s no case of ‘you’re here for training twice a week or else you don’t play’.
“They’ve kind of moved on past that stage where some new management will force you to turn up for training or you don’t play. The Ballyea management seem to be understanding. The two years previous I think I tore hamstrings, I tore my left and my right probably three or four times each so this is my first full year so it helped me in a big way.
“I could kind of do my own thing without anyone putting pressure on me, I could choose my own training schedule, I wasn’t forced to turn up for trainings at home, I’d do whatever I needed to do to get myself training properly. And there was always a choice of fixtures, there was Ballyea games, there was Parnells games to play so it wasn’t just a case of training 10 times to play one game, I was just playing games and it really did work out well for me.”
Such form resulted in a call-up to the Clare senior hurling panel. He’s happy to working with Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor once more having been a panellist when the duo were in charge of the county’s U21 side.
Ballyea have proven themselves to be a very tight unit and one which is very strong collectively. Deasy who is working in the capital with AIB labels his teammate Tony Kelly as “gifted” and refers to a comment by All-Ireland medallist, Colin Ryan when asked about Mr Kelly.
“I don’t think you can train what he has, to be quite honest. I think it’s more natural ability, the sort of balance and the skill levels he has, the way he’s able to read the game. I don’t think it’s possible to train that into someone, you either have it at a young age, develop it or else you don’t. He was always fairly gifted.
“There’s only so much you can mark him. I remember Colin Ryan did an interview and they were asking about Tony and he just said ‘sometimes you’re wasting a player marking him, you might as well just put him back as a sweeper and let him off by himself because he’s that quick and that fast and well able to read a game that whoever is marking him won’t be able to get close to him’. Hopefully, he stays that way.”
A place in the All-Ireland senior club hurling final is up for grabs when Ballyea take on St Thomas’ of Galway at 5pm in Semple Stadium, Thurles.