Tipp U21 hurlers ready to throw off the shackles
By Michael Devlin
Up to now, Paudie Feehan has had more experience in the Tipperary jersey with the size five football than with a sliotar and hurl, but the Killenaule man is now playing a key role for the county’s hurlers and will line out at centre forward for Liam Cahill’s U21 side in their Munster final tonight with Cork in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
A part of the senior squad that made an early exit of from year’s championship, Feehan believes the return to competitive action with the U21s has helped quell the disappointment.
“It’s very disappointing to be out this early. It's actually good to have something to get back and get focused on and get back into training. We lost on the Sunday and we were back into training with the U21s on the Tuesday night so it's good to get over it and get your focus back again.”
Victory or defeat this evening, the new structure at U21 level means Tipperary will still be in the reckoning for an All-Ireland title later in the month.
“Yeah it's great. We can kind of throw off the shackles now tonight. There's no real pressure because you're into an All-Ireland semi-final anyway so it's great to be able to go out and hurl, you're not too worried.”
Facing up to Cork on their home turf, it’s a new prospect for Feehan who never hurled at underage for the Premier County. He was only called up to the U21s last year, but an ankle injury in May meant he saw no action.
“This will be my first time. I think the guys might have played against them underage, but I haven’t, so it will be a great experience and a big occasion tonight.
“I was playing senior there for the last two or three years with the club. We had a kind of an extended run there two years ago. I was just tipping away. I was actually with the U21 hurlers last year but I broke my ankle so I couldn't play.
“I actually had two surgeries on it. I was only out for about four or five months this time but I was out for longer the last time when I was in sixth year, a year underage for minor. So I was out for eight months that time.”
Having overcome that injury and despite time spent only with county football squads thus far, club performances with Killenaule earned Feehan a place in Michael Ryan’s senior hurling squad, much to his own surprise, and he made his inter-county debut in the Allianz Hurling League Round 2 clash with Waterford.
“All you want to do when you're younger is play for Tipp. It doesn't really matter what, I'll just take anything that comes.
“It's great, it's a great experience to be in learning from them. Training with them and get time in the league, just a great experience this year.
“I think if the way it worked out with Clare winning [against Limerick], we might have even been in a Munster final if we won that game. It’s just so close, those margins in sport and that’s the way it’s worked out.”
Home advantage for Cork is not a huge hurdle according to Feehan, who is hoping the Tipp fans come out in their numbers to get behind the county at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
“I don’t think the venue will change too much, it might give them a small edge. We’re coming in as small underdogs, but hopefully we can come with a big performance and hopefully the result will follow.
“The guys are very experienced, even if they mightn’t have played at senior level. It’s great to have, and some of those guys have won before. Hopefully we can win again now tonight.
“Hopefully we get a good crowd down. But all that matters really is what happens in the four lines, and I don’t think the stadium will make much difference and it’s just going to make for a great game.”