While he happily posed with his latest All-Star trophy for photographers on Friday last, 2009 was all that was occupying Eoin Kelly’s mind on the GAA’s biggest awards night.
“We’re just itching to get going again,” the Passage clubman told The Munster Express while forklifts hastily hauled RTE’s set out of the Citywest Hotel’s main function room.
“It can’t come around quickly enough,” said Kelly, casting his eye towards the new League and Championship campaign. “Every one of us just wants to get back into training so that we can give it our best shot next year.”
Looking back on the 2008 campaign, the Hurling Championship’s leading scorer offered a stoical assessment.
“When you weigh things up, I suppose you’d still have to put it down as a good year,” he said. “We were a long time waiting to reach an All-Ireland final, but obviously for it to go the way it did was absolutely devastating.
“We’ve just got to put it down as a lesson learned and do all that we can to put it right next year, hopefully.”
Kelly continued: “We know we went down badly in the final and that’s why we were so keen to get back training again and do all we can to put that match out of our system.”
And what of the award? “It’s always nice to win something like this. I suppose the only real pity of it is that I’m the only Waterford player on the team. It would have been nice to have had a few more of us up here tonight.
“The team that was picked is a very strong fifteen and Kilkenny deserved to dominate the selection after the way they dealt with us and Cork. But if you’d John Mullane and Eoin McGrath in there ahead of any of us that were picked, it’d be just as strong a team.”
Davy Fitzgerald’s appointment on a two-year term as senior hurling manager was warmly welcomed by Kelly.
“We’re delighted to have him on board,” he added. “It’s great news and a huge boost to the panel that he’s committed himself to Waterford. I don’t think Davy wanted to walk away from the job, especially after the way the final went. He’s a born winner and he brought so much
determination and enthusiasm to the job from day one.
“He knows and we know that the best way to judge a team is by the silverware it wins and we
all want our hands on a few more trophies. Kilkenny are leading the way right now and it’s up to every other team to try and catch them…
“Maybe some good might come from the [All-Ireland] final yet. We know that we’re a lot better than we were in the final. We just didn’t perform. And that’s why we’re itching for training again.”
* The chief talking point from last Friday’s hurling selection (its premature leaking to the press aside) was the omission of John Mullane, who helped De La Salle reach the County SHC final following victory over Tallow last Sunday.
Mullane, the top scorer from play in the Championship (2-21) and widely acknowledged as the only Waterford player to produce the goods in all six outings last summer, lost out on an award by two votes to Galway sensation Joe Canning.
The 16-strong voting panel opted for the
Young Hurler of the Year over Mullane by nine votes to seven. It was cruel on Mullane, who, lest it be forgotten, scored three points in the All-Ireland final despite Michael Kavanagh’s close attention.
“It was always going to be tough on whoever missed out on this position,” said one selector. “And it’s very cruel on John Mullane given how well he played, particularly in both of Waterford’s defeats.”
He added: “It was a very, very tough call. It’s not Joe Canning’s fault that he had only one meaningful game in the Championship, but the contribution he made against Cork was incredible and that 2-12 is what swung it in the end for him, I think.”