'100% there's still a place for him' - Davy Fitzgerald hails Kilkenny half forward Tom Phelan 4 months ago

'100% there's still a place for him' - Davy Fitzgerald hails Kilkenny half forward Tom Phelan

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Tom Phelan was eccentric at some times in the All-Ireland final, erratic at others, but he was always electric, and often exceptional.


You can't ask for more.

He's the 26-year-old who came from nowhere to star for Kilkenny this season so it was fitting then, two minutes into the All-Ireland final, when his first contribution was to come from five metres behind Kyle Hayes to dispossess him.

Now you see me, now you don't.

Tom Phelan is not like the modern inter-county hurler. That is the brick old-house with mini-mountains for biceps and and a chest that blows up like a burning omlette.


Tom Phelan does not have tree-trunks for legs. But one thing he does have is burning pace.

The modern inter-county hurler is built more for power than boyish pace and in the first half of the biggest game in hurling, that man caused all sorts of problems for Limerick.

What's the old saying that no defender likes being ran at.

23 July 2023; Tom Phelan of Kilkenny is tackled by Kyle Hayes, left, and Darragh O'Donovan of Limerick during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship final match between Kilkenny and Limerick at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

The next time the Conahy Shamrocks player won the ball he sped away from Diarmaid Byrnes, only to be knocked back to north Kilkenny by William O'Donoghue, who used the momentum to win a free. Don't try that again.

But he did.

If you were worried that the final debutante would be quietened then you relaxed again, a few minutes later, when he was quickest to a breaking ball, and steered it into Eoin Cody's path for Kilkenny's first goal.


Phelan scored a point of his own 20 seconds later, fumbling possession then re-gathering it, before slotting over from the 65. He scored another a minute later, speeding through the Limerick half-back-line before swinging over under pressure.

'The man from Conahy Shamrocks is on fire,' said Marty Morrissey.

Phelan didn't release the ball early enough next time out, and went for goal when a point was there for the taking early on in the second half. But he had more to give and his catch and score in the 40th minute, over the head of William O'Donoghue, was leadership personified.

Speaking on The GAA Hour, Davy Fitzgerald hailed the Kilkenny half forward, and gave him one piece of advice.

"100% there's still a place for a player like Tom Phelan.


"Tom broke even with Diarmaid in the first half. Tom got a few balls off him. Byrnes came alive in the second half."

"If he released the ball two or three times yesterday, he was away," said Davy,

"He was running, but you can not, can not run into two or three Limerick lads. Because if you get close to two or three of them, they're taking the ball off you."

"Just before you get to that contact point, you've got to be releasing that ball. If you see two of them coming at you, get rid of it, because they're so good at holding you off."

Tom Phelan proved on Sunday that he’s good enough. He also proved, to many others out there, that you don’t have to be a giant to make it.

Watch our All-Ireland hurling final review show with Davy Fitzgerald right here.

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