EOIN KELLY DIDN’T reach his goal this time around.
There was a time when the Mullinahone forward was the first name on a Tipperary teamsheet, and the first name on an opposition manager’s mind.
Now, a mix of injuries and form have instead left him providing ‘depth’ to the Premier County’s panel. Competition for places is the bedrock of any succesful side and speaking before the team announcement this week, Kelly was adamant he would be in the top 15 hurlers in the county.
“It’s about how you deal with it [being dropped],” Kelly said, “I’d like to think that I reacted well, I haven’t given up the chase. I’m going in to start against Kilkenny.”
He hasn’t, but he’ll be ready to spring from the bench. Kilkenny are a hurdle that require more than a 15-man effort, never mind a lone hero.
“If you were depending on one marquee player you’re going to win nothing. Look at the last few years – different lads are doing the scoring and we have been getting to All-Ireland finals. That’s where we want to be – winning medals and contesting All-Irelands. I am happy with the way it’s going.”
Happy wasn’t quite the first emotion you’d have pinned on Kelly at this press call. It’s hard to keep a smile up when posed with constant reminders of increasing age and dip in form.
Some present felt the best of his 12-season inter-county career centred around his 2-9 in the 2006 win over Waterford. Kelly bristles at the suggestion, citing many other facets of his game that can prove just as valuable as collecting scores.
“The real hurling guy will see other sides of a lad’s play. The guys who know nothing about hurling see you scoring and scoring, but the real hurling man will see you making a run to the corner, maybe holding up the play, maybe being a bit more physical and the ball spilling off you for other guys, the likes of Shane Bourke, Lar Corbett, Noel McGrath to come on to.
“You’d come across guys who know nothing about hurling and those are the type of questions they ask.”
When speaking about his quest to start against Kilkenny he reasoned: “The team isn’t picked for the next day so I’m no different to a lot of the players. There are places up for grabs,” but now that he has been left off the field from the start, he will emerge from the Hogan Stand looking to prove a point.
However, at 30 years of age he’s all to aware that there is no point in forcing anything. He his content to do more heavy lifting or play second fiddle while others take to the lime-light to strike the sweeter notes.
“The hurling men will see this.”
Daithí Regan: “It’s hard to think of a more eagerly-awaited All-Ireland hurling semi-final than this one.”