Power, John

23 August 1991

John Power gallops forward
One of the Powers behind Kilkenny hurling
By Enda McEvoy

Writing about a match a fortnight before it takes place can be a tricky business. Especially when the match in question is an All Ireland Final, and especially when the teams won’t be announced till the midweek beforehand. So is it safe to say that Callan’s John Power will be lining out for Kilkenny at Croke Park on Sunday week? And if he does, is it really wise to predict what jersey he’ll be filling?

It may be the number 11 shirt: after all, he wore it against Dublin in the Leinster decider and against Antrim in the semi final. Given a choice, this is the position he’d prefer. But Ollie Walsh and his fellow mentors are the men who call the shots, and they may choose big Christy as the man to lead the Cats’ attack, with John Power on his right. Which is where the 25-year old farmer began the championship, and from where he nipped in for that great goal just before half-time to keep Kilkenny’s hopes alive against Wexford.

Then again, few would be surprised to see him start at midfield. Yet there’s even been a whisper the tearaway redhead could end up playing in his more familiar (to most intercounty watchers, anyway) right-half back spot. Ollie et al certainly can’t complain of lack of choice when it comes to a position for John Power! No matter where he does or doesn’t play, it’s fair to forecast that no Kilkenny player will have quite the same appetite for getting stuck into this particular final as John. Only natural when you live just a couple of miles from the Tipperary border, on the outskirts of a town with a considerable population of Premier County natives.

"Personally I’m glad it’s Tipp that we’re meeting," he admits. "It’s a big spur to be up against them, particularly so as I run into a lot of Tipperary men at the creamery here during the week.

They’re all talk about the final of course, and very confident of winning it. The way Tipp are after hurling along the way, you can’t blame them!

Should Kilkenny manage to overturn their neighbours and, in the process, sicken half the regulars at the creamery in Callan, - no one would appreciate his Celtic cross more than John Power! For here’s one man who’s very much the exception to the notion that the senior stars of the Black and Amber are weighed down by the quantity of the medals they’ve won at under-age level.

Hurling life by the Nore does not necessarily confer you with the front door key to the silversmiths, Cashel CBS and Nenagh CBS taught him that in successive years. Colm Bonnar and John Kennedy were on the Cashel side that beat Callan CBS in 1982 All Ireland collages’ B final, Michael Cleary a member of the Nenagh outfit which did likewise twelve months later.

It got worse. John played centre - forward (for the first quarter) and centre-back (commandingly for the other three quarters) in the centenary minor decider’s draw and replay, only to suffer the heartbreak of a one point defeat (2-5 to 2-4) at the hands of a fine Limerick combination in a pulsating Thurles replay. And in 1985, having had a couple of runs in the earlier games, he broke his wrist in the build up to the All Ireland under-21 final which Kilkenny lost - again by a point - to Tipperary.

The following spring another hand injury - sustained against Westmeath one wet day in Portlaoise - cost him a NHL medal, but consolation came later that year in the shape of an All Ireland junior hurling medal. Though even here there was another tale of bad luck: elder brother Michael broke his finger in the semi-final and John was brought in to take his place at right- half back!

He’s had to wait for his first Leinster senior medal, too. A good personal display at midfield was little consolation when the Cats were mauled by Wexford on his championship debut three years ago: he was ill, very much off form and substituted when Offaly surprised Kilkenny in the 1990 Leinster final last summer. Well, no Kilkenny reader will want reminding of that, although the Faithful ones are probably still laughing at the memory.

This June and July saw him finally break his provincial duck and if DJ Carey made most of the headlines with that late late show stealer against Wexford, every inch as important was the Callanman’s injury-time goal in the first half, which allowed the winners go in at the break a mere point behind when the arrears could - and should - have been so much more.

Remember the score? Pat Dwyer found Carey in the left corner, he cut inside only to see Ted Morrissey beat out his shot, but John Power was lurking on the edge of the square to billow the net. Some insisted he was actually inside the square, but nothing on the TV replays bore them out. His own recollection of the incident goes thus. "Playing at right-half forward I’d been sprinting in after every ball, but with no luck up to that. Then I saw DJ soloing in, knew he was going to shoot, but felt he was a little far out and that the shot might take a deflection, It was a nice chance to avail of.

"Those two first-half points against Dublin were pleasing also,but they were really down to our midfield, who were winning the ball and sending it on."

A scenario like that, when the midfield men are channelling the ball forward, is part of the reason why he likes to wear the number 11 shirt: a penchant for rising the sliotar and bursting his way through is the other. "I love to be driving forward and heading for goal, though in all honesty I’m probably more suited to a wing back position .

Kilkenny’s close shave against Antrim he attributes in part to the challenge match between the sides in Carrigeen, south Kilkenny, two months earlier. "We hammered them in the challenge, when they were short some of their best players. Probably that game misled some of our players. After beating Wexford everyone expected us to reach the All Ireland final.

"So there wasn’t quite the same jizz there for the Dublin and Antrim games. Antrim turned out to be big, skilful and fierce tough. It was only in the last twelve minutes that everyone realised the match was slipping away from us, and woke up.
"But I don’t think there’ll be any problem psyching ourselves up against Tipp!


Taken from Hogan Stand
23rd August 1991