Coaxed out of hurling retirement three years ago by Tony Joyce’s infectious enthusiasm for the game, Warwickshire veteran Kieran Boxwell is enjoying his second coming.
Lifting the Lory Meagher Cup at Croke Park last year was fitting reward for the 34-year-old midfielder, who made his senior county debut when he was 17.
Birmingham-born Boxwell hung up his boots after Warwickshire’s Lory Meagher Cup semi-final defeat to Tyrone in 2012 due to family and work commitments, and duly missed out on the county’s championship success the following year at Croker.
Enticed back into the fold by Joyce in 2016, he’s enjoying a new lease of life.
“I thought I was never going to get to Croke Park – it’s been a long old journey for me,” he said.
“I walked out at Croker thinking my time was done. It’s certainly given me the motivation to stay involved this year.
“I’m probably enjoying it more now than I ever have. Juggling family life and work is hard, but when you get down to the training ground and three times a week, every week, there’s 20 plus lads, and you’ve got Joycey with the passion he’s shown. It keeps you going.”
Warwickshire open their National Hurling League Division 3A campaign with a trip to Tyrone on Sunday at Healy Park (1pm). Longford, Monaghan, Louth and Roscommon, who hurl in the Christy Ring, make up the division.
Warwickshire have already enjoyed a “nice little boost” in the run up by beating London in a challenge match, and Boxwell is confident the midlanders can build on last year’s success.
“We’re looking forward to it; a few additions to the squad have strengthened us and we think we can step it up again,” said Boxwell, who can recall playing against Tyrone at Healy Park back in the mid-noughties.
“Tyrone is going to be the marker, we’ll see where we’re at. It’ll be a difficult game; they’re a tough, physical team and they’ve always been a very fit team.”
Tyrone were beaten heavily by Armagh in last year’s Nicky Rackard Cup semi-finals, having been on the end of hammering from Donegal in the Division 3A final. Warwickshire themselves lost out in the Division 3B final to Longford, a defeat which Boxwell credits for what was to come.
“We were bitterly disappointed and it gave us the motivation to kick on in the championship – we knew we left the league final behind us,” he said.
“It went to extra-time and Longford blew us away with a couple of quick goals, but we should have really won. But we refocused, stepped it up for the championship and had an unbeaten run.”
An Erin Go Bragh man “through and through”, Boxwell is fully aware of the important role both he and club teammate Tom Kelly hold as role models for homegrown young hurlers within the county, with both having started last year’s Lory Meagher final.
Boxwell has been involved in getting underage hurling at Erin Go Bragh back up and running, and the club now have 35-40 youngsters turning out every Wednesday evening.
Natural step up
“They see Tom and I going back and forth to Ireland to play county and that gives them something to aspire to,” said Boxwell, whose mum hails from Laois and his dad from Wexford.
“But how do we keep it going? Where is the next generation coming from to make the senior team? That would be my one worry.” Successes like last year can only help, as will Nicky Rackard Cup hurling coming to Pairc na hEireann this year.
For Boxwell, it’s a ‘natural step’ up for the county team to make, with the standard rising year-on-year. “You don’t want to sit where you are, you’ve got to go and test yourself against better opposition.
The only way we can improve is to play against quality teams,” he said.