*Clare captain, Tony Kelly. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
Saturday’s All-Ireland SHC semi-final outcome will be decided by the respective talisman, Tony Kelly and TJ Reid according to an ex Kilkenny hurler now residing in East Clare.
PJ Delaney knows what it takes to win All-Ireland semi-finals, The Fenians clubman from Johnstown in Kilkenny played in his share of semi-finals with his native county. He was also in the Cats attack in the 1997 semi-final when Ger Loughnane’s Clare prevailed on their way to winning the Liam McCarthy cup for the second time in three years.
Now living in Ogonnelloe in East Clare and chairman of the local GAA club, the holder of All-Ireland minor, under 21 and senior hurling championships with his beloved Kilkenny believes that “there will be very little between the counties on Saturday. It’s a 50/50 game”.
Married to Sarah King from Ogonnelloe, P.J. has been living in the East Clare parish for over ten years. “I have been coming down here for over twenty years and I am involved with the local club. We won the junior A championship last year and just last Sunday we were narrowly defeated for promotion to the senior league. There is great slagging and banter at present ahead of the game. Clare are quite confident, they are a very good side. They have been the more consistent side this year and they are unbeaten in 70 minutes in hurling this year,” according to the All-Ireland senior medal winner from 1993 when Kilkenny defeaed Galway in the final.
Delaney believes that “Clare are having a really good year, I am really impressed with the way they play, they went toe to toe with Limerick”.
“I am a Kilkenny man to the back bone and I will be shouting for Kilkenny on Saturday. I will be travelling up to the game with a number of family members including my daughter who plays camogie with the local Scariff-Ogonnelloe team. They will all be sporting the saffron and blue and I will be the only one in black and amber but there will be plenty up there to meet me”, quipped P.J. who believes Clare might out support Kilkenny by as much as 70/30. “Clare are incredible supporters”, he said before admitting that should the result not go in Kilkenny’s favour, he will then join his family members in supporting Clare.
PJ is full of praise for the game’s longest serving manager, Brian Cody. “He is just incredible. He comes back every year and they perform for him. This will come down to a puck of the ball. It will come down to the best players, Tony Kelly and T. J. Reid and who can perform on the day. There will always be someone who will have a great game and that will be the difference”, he said.
He went on to say “Eoin Murphy is a superb keeper, arguably the best in the game. Goalkeepers play a key part in the game and their roles are becoming more important every year. As I said this is likely to be very tight as there is very little between the teams. In Croke Park once the ball ins thrown in games take on a life of their own. Whoever grabs the initiative early on could win this won”, according to the man who had just turned 26 when his career was ended due to serious injury.