Sunday 23 July 2017

'Patriotic' Kennelly gets green light to answer Ireland's call

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

AMID speculation that All-Ireland finalists Down could yet lose Martin Clarke back to Australian Rules football, one Irish AFL star has confirmed that he's been cleared to play for Ireland in the upcoming international series.

Sydney Swans' medical staff have given Tadhg Kennelly the all-clear to play for Anthony Tohill's team in what will be the Kerryman's first competitive appearance in Ireland since leaving the Kingdom after last year's All-Ireland victory to resume his AFL career.

"You know as you get on in years, your body may not pull up as good at the end of the season, so I've decided to go ahead and play, and I can't wait," Kennelly said.

"It's going to be fantastic playing against some of the Swans boys and, of course, playing with Ireland and catching up with a lot of players as well."

Winner of both AFL and All-Ireland senior medals, Kennelly said that the fact that he returned and settled Down Under this season after coming home and winning a coveted All-Ireland in 2009, has only made him keener to play for Ireland.

"When you're away from a county you get very patriotic. I absolutely love playing for my country; there's no higher honour that you can get so it's something I'm really looking forward to."

The Listowel native hasn't played in Ireland since last year's All-Ireland final, when his heavy early tackle on Nicholas Murphy -- and the comments he subsequently made about that incident in his autobiography -- were a major bone of contention.

One significant development ahead of the international series is that one of Australia's current superstars -- Gary Ablett -- has reportedly told AFL bosses that he is now interested in making his international debut.

Ablett's inclusion would not only hugely strengthen the travelling party but also attract a lot of publicity for the tour as he is currently at the heart of a massive AFL transfer story.

There is heavy speculation that Geelong's superstar midfielder will leave the club to join new franchise Gold Coast Suns, who have reportedly offered him close to a AUD$10m five-year deal to jump ship.

Geelong, chasing a fourth Grand Final appearance in a row, were knocked out by Collingwood in last weekend's AFL semi-finals despite another sterling performance by Ablett (26), who is expected to make up his mind in the coming weeks about his future.

Down star Clarke starred for Collingwood before refusing a second three-year contract and returning home last autumn. He played a key role as Down reached the Division 2 and All-Ireland finals.

Back in April, Collingwood officials made no secret of the fact that they hoped to persuade Clarke to come back, but any further moves are expected to be delayed for the moment, given that the club are playing St Kilda in the Grand Final next weekend.

This year's International Rules Tests will take place on October 23 (Limerick) and October 30 (Croke Park).

Irish Independent

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