David Hennessy was there as the Kilkenny Supporters Club London Branch welcomed Kilkenny greats John Power, Brian McEvoy and Tracy Millea. Although DJ Carey was unable to make the journey due to ill health, the night was a success
The London-based supporters of Brian Cody’s Cats welcomed their heroes recently when All-Ireland winners John Power, Brian McEvoy and Tracy Millea came to Hennessy’s of Kingsbury as guests of the Kilkenny Supporters Club London Branch.
All were delighted to make the trip and spoke of their pleasure to engage with the fans who follow Kilkenny from afar.
John Power told The Irish World that he believes the London GAA scene deserves great credit: “I know the good work people are doing. When you’re away from home, I suppose your passion grows. You tend to latch on to the GAA people and the GAA world.
“I would be very anxious to back the people up both here and in Ireland. I would love to give everybody a help that way. We have everything on our doorstep, it is easy for us to enjoy hurling, we have it every night of the week but it is different over here if you maybe work all day, then jump into a tube and have to go training. I would appreciate the efforts of everyone over here.
“We’re very fortunate in Kilkenny, if a young fella is fairly good and gets a chance to get on the Kilkenny team or panel, you have a big chance of winning the big prize, the Liam McCarthy Cup whereas over here, you’re really promoting the game and really playing for the love of the game and that’s what everyone should acknowledge.
“Delighted to come over for this weekend.”
Kilburn Gaels and London have several hurlers from Kilkenny (Luke Gaule, Andrew Power, Mark O’Dwyer, Nollaig Brophy) and former London manager Eamonn Phelan hails from the south east county.
Brian McEvoy once came to Ruislip to play football for Kilkenny against London and speaks of these sort of connections London between Kilkenny: “We were always made very welcome in London. There was always a great reception and it seems to be a very tight knit community over here.
“When we bring the cup over here, there’s an awful lot of people in London maybe 30, 40 years who maybe don’t get home for matches for one reason or another. For them to see the McCarthy Cup or to meet the players that they see on television, they get a great thrill out of that. It’s a great honour to come and do those things..
“Andy Comerford played with Brothers Pearse for a few years and Martin was over and played a bit of hurling with them. There’s a strong connection with Andy. Then different guys you would know at different clubs would be going over and would play a bit of hurling with one of the clubs in London. There’s always a strong connection between Kilkenny and London on that front.”
Former Kilkenny camogie player and member of the RTE panel, Tracy Millea adds: “It was lovely to be asked. You’re so welcoming here tonight. It’s absolutely brilliant. You can really see that all people want is a little bit of home. They’re over here, they’ve settled here but yet, they haven’t forgotten their roots. Everyone here tonight has black and amber jerseys, it’s absolutely brilliant. It will just tell you that people are so proud of where they came from.”
There was sad news that DJ Carey’s health had prevented him from joining, having been scheduled to appear. DJ, regarded as one of the best hurlers of all time, has had health problems and was admitted to hospital for heart checks after a collapse in 2012.
Tracy Millea said: “He’s not well. They had a legends reunion there about six weeks ago in Kilkenny and DJ played that day, as did Brian and a few of the other all time greats: Charlie Carter, Mick Kavanagh. My God, I’ll tell you, DJ had flashes of his brilliance that night. His side step and ‘the dodger’ was still there.”
Kilkenny are already safely through to an All-Ireland final on September 6. On this year’s team, Brian says: “I expect them to win the All-Ireland again.”
Speaking before Kilkenny’s semi-final against Waterford, Brian pointed out they had yet to be really tested: “I think Kilkenny haven’t learned much so far which is always dangerous going into a semi-final. They’re well experienced at doing that, getting to a semi-final. I think it will be a Kilkenny/Tipp final and I think we have the hoodoo over them. I think from a Tipperary point of view, it’s nearly psychological at this stage.”
Tipperary beat Kilkenny to the All-Ireland in 2010 but have not beaten them in championship hurling since. Kilkenny defeated them in the 2011 and 2014 finals, in a 2012 semi-final and a 2013 qualifier.
Kilkenny will play Galway in the final, the two teams met in 2012 when a replay was needed to separate them.
Brian says: “Even though we’re after losing seven or eight players over the last three or four years, probably some of the most decorated players of all time and to still be able to put in the performances we’re putting in is phenomenal.”
John Power adds: “They’re a typical Brian Cody team. The very minute last year’s All-Ireland is done and dusted, that’s finished, that don’t count for anything. When he starts for a new year, last year don’t really count. You can’t hold up last year’s medal and say, ‘I won last year and I’m going to be on the team this year‘. He don’t take that kind of thing and it’s reflected on the field. Their display against Wexford was awesome. They really mopped the floor with them. Kilkenny being Kikenny, they don’t take prisoners.”
John Power won All-Irelands with Kilkenny in 1992 and 1993. Having been dropped from the squad by the previous manager, it was current boss and the phenomenally successful Brian Cody who brought him back into the fold where he played his part in the All-Ireland successes of 2000 and 2002: “I was dropped off the panel in ‘98. Kevin Fennelly was the manager and I felt I had loads left to offer. It hurt me badly but we played a challenge game against ‘the village’ (Brian Cody’s James Stephens club) just after that All-Ireland final in ‘98. I played really well that same night and fortunate for me, Brian got the job as manager. Maybe he was aware that night I had something left. He gave me the call and I had four wonderful years. I was nominated for an All star for four years and won two All-Irelands. I was very committed to it and he links up well with a player who is committed to the cause. I was lucky how things happened.
“I thought my time was over. I was only too delighted to get the phone call from Brian. When I got it, I took it with two hands.”
Brian, of the same James Stephens club as the Kilkenny manager, says: “I know Brian all my life. He taught me in school and trained me for James Stephens and Kilkenny. He’s a passionate man for hurling. He’s 110% committed to the cause and he’s probably privileged enough, and he would admit this himself, to be working with outstanding players. He probably gets the utmost out of them whereas other counties might have talented players and other managers don’t get what he gets out of them. I think that’s the difference.”
Asked who will take over from Cody when he decides to depart, Power says: “It will be a poisoned chalice really because you’re in a no win situation but I don’t think anyone will ever have to take over from Brian because whenever he does decide to go, he’s after putting Kilkenny in such a vein of winning, he has a generation of young players that know what to do to be successful. He’ll be always there for advice because one thing he has is unbelievable passion for the game. That can’t be bought.”
Brian McEvoy and Tracy Millea are married and have two children. Will their two boys follow their parents onto the hurling field? Brian says: “They’re mad hurling away at the moment anyway. Aaron will be ten in December and Ben is seven next month and they’re hurling not for my club now. I was a James Stephens man but we were married out in Graigue Ballycallan so they’re hurling for Tracy’s club.
Tracy says: “He’s always saying that, they’re not going to be wearing the village jersey and every time I meet (former Kilkenny and James Stephens hurler) ‘Fan’ Larkin, he’s always reminding me as well, that the light blue doesn’t suit the boys but it’s great. There was such expectations because both myself and Brian are after playing with Kilkenny and I kept saying, ‘look he might end up a hairdresser, he mightn’t lift up a hurl‘. They have it and they have a great interest. We were reared in a field and that’s where I want my boys reared as well, we didn’t do too bad about it.”
The Kilkenny Supporters Club have been established since 2011 and guests have included great DJ Carey, Eoin Larkin and Paul Murphy of the current panel, recently retired Kilkenny goalkeeper David Herity, former Kilkenny back Michael Kavanagh, former Kilkenny midfielder Liam ‘Chunky’ O’Brien. Former Cork All-Ireland winner and RTE pundit Tomas Mulcahy has chaired several Q and As and Iarla Tannion of Galway has also been a special guest.
The night was to raise funds for the Kilkenny County Board and there was a raffle and auction, with prizes such as signed Kilkenny shirts and hurley sticks.
For more information, you can find The Kilkenny GAA Supporters Club London Branch on Facebook or call chairman Pat Byrne on 07711 851 836.