Ballyea’s Tony Kelly has been instrumental in his club’s campaign to the 2016/17 AIB GAA Senior Hurling Club Championship Final. The 2013 hurler and young hurler of the year will line out with his clubmates in Croke Park on St. Patrick’s Day as they face Dublin’s Cuala for the 25th anniversary of AIB’s sponsorship of the Club Championships. This will be the debut appearance for both teams in an AIB All-Ireland Club Championship Final as #TheToughest campaign draws to its grand conclusion.
Tony Kelly - I don't think we'll ever get back here again
Ballyea’s Tony Kelly has been instrumental in his club’s campaign to the 2016/17 AIB GAA Senior Hurling Club Championship Final. This will be the debut appearance for both teams in an AIB All-Ireland Club Championship Final as #TheToughest campaign draws to its grand conclusion.
Both teams have endured long, tough campaigns to reach what is the pinnacle of club hurling. Ballyea showed their character in the semi-final against St. Thomas’ when they held on to win by two points against the 2013 champions. Players like Kelly will need to be in fine form again in the final in order to overcome a strong Cuala outfit that boast several hurlers on the Dublin senior panel.
"To get to any All-Ireland final is fantastic but to get to play in Croke Park with Ballyea is a bit surreal really.” Tony Kelly said. “I think we're all in agreement that this will be our only chance to play here with the club, I don't think we'll ever get back here again.’
"There's been 11 different (seniors club) winners in Clare in the last 13 years, it's very competitive. We could have lads going to America or Australia next year or the one after, or, in a club like Ballyea, we might get one good lad injured and that's it, you're not even coming out of Clare! This season has run smoothly for us with injuries and having lads available and around, so this seems to be our one chance.” Highlighting just how momentous this occasion is for the Ballyea team. "A club like ours will probably only get this chance once in a lifetime and this is our chance now to play here and hopefully win.
"I think that's the best way to approach it. Otherwise the occasion doesn't mean as much to you. If you're thinking 'oh we might get back here again', well that's not how it happens, as we learned the hard way with Clare from 2013."