Tadhg Kennelly: 'I'd answer the call from Fitzmaurice, sure who wouldn't?'
Published 13/02/2013 | 04:00
Kerry are on a collision course for an early season crisis, but Tadhg Kennelly has stressed that it is "highly unlikely" he will make an inter-county return.
Pressed, however, on whether he could be coaxed back if the call came from manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice, the 2009 All-Ireland medal winner was not quite so dismissive of the prospect.
"Ah, look it, of course I'd take it. Who wouldn't? But that's all ifs and buts," he said.
Kennelly's circumstances have changed somewhat, as part of his brief as the AFL's overseas talent co-ordinator sees him at home much more often now. Even last weekend he played for his home club Listowel Emmets before taking in the Kerry game against Dublin.
"I am over and back (to Australia). If I wanted to do it (commit to Kerry again), I'd have to honestly decide whether or not I could do it with work," said Kennelly, who was in DCU yesterday to host the second AFL Combine, which, over two days, tested athletes looking to attract AFL clubs.
But at the back of his mind is a suspicion that his days in the green and gold are probably gone.
"If I really wanted to and I really had to do it? Well, by not having done it by now, I think I'm telling myself that I don't really want to do it," he reasoned.
"I am going to play county championship football, but that's probably it. I am a full year from any hard training."
But he still believes he could get himself in shape quite quickly, even at 33 and almost 18 months out of the professional AFL game.
"Generally, most athletes, with the muscle memory they have and if they've been a professional footballer or any elite athlete for more than five or six years, it's only going to take you the bones of six weeks or two months to get back up to fitness.
"I've found that when I've had a break for a couple of months and then went to the gym and started running again, it took me a couple of weeks."
He admitted that Kerry may have to take a step back to go forward and that relegation may be part of that process. He added that the selection of certain players over the last two weekends suggested that there will be a lot of communication between Fitzmaurice and U-21 manager Darragh O Se as part of a longer-term strategy.
The two-day 'camp' at DCU included a host of Gaelic football's most promising players. From Dublin, All-Ireland minor winners Cormac Costello, Shane Carthy, Eric Lowndes, Niall Scully and Gavin Burke headed the list.
Cork's Damien Cahalane, Kildare pair Paddy Brophy and Daniel Flynn and Galway's Shane Walsh were other notable inclusions.
Antrim's James Laverty, Ger Leech (Westmeath), Conor Carville (Derry), Ronan Daly (Roscommon), Niall Grimley (Armagh), Che and Lee Cullen (Fermanagh), Adam Gallagher (Mayo), Ethan Rafferty (Armagh), Hugh McFadden (Donegal) and the Tipperary trio of Steven O'Brien, Philip Quirke and last year's All-Ireland winning minor hurling captain Bill Maher were also on board for a series of tests that measured stamina, speed, agility and vertical jumping power as well as character profiling.
Significantly, the two-day venture was also attended by a Killarney- based basketballer, Padraig Lucey, and a rugby player from Wolverhampton, Cameron Cope, underlining the spread of sports that the AFL are now trying to tap into for new recruits.
After last year's camp in Tallaght, Ciaran Kilkenny went to Hawthorn and Derry's Emmet Bradley and Kildare's Sean Hurley were invited to the four-day AFL international Combine in Australia last October, but weren't picked up by clubs.
"What we do is give the recruiters from AFL clubs a measurement tool against the kids that they see in Australia and see how that stacks up," explained the AFL Europe manager Ben McCormack.
Kennelly admitted that rising Dublin star Jack McCaffrey 'blew them away' with his sprint test results last year.
"Jack McCaffrey ran a 2.8 for a 20-metre sprint. The record at that level is 2.78. It blows them out of the water in Australia and straight away it's a thing that clubs can look at and say 'there is freaky talent in Ireland. They're not just footballers, they're athletes as well.' And it's not just Gaelic footballers we're looking for."
Kennelly admitted that Kilkenny's u-turn was a setback, but that clubs have factored in that this can happen.
"It's a difficult thing when you have kids coming over from the other side of the world. It's a situation which clubs understand what can happen," he conceded.
The 2005 AFL Premiership winner admitted he was shocked by the recent report published in Australia that revealed an extensive doping culture in the country's sporting fabric.
"I couldn't believe it. I have been here 12 years and not once have I seen or heard anything to do with performance enhancing drugs," he said.
"I can only speak for my own experiences and players that have come in from other clubs or left for other clubs."
He says he might be off the mark in thinking it's not such a big issue for AFL, considering that Essendon have come under such an intense spotlight.
"I think it's unlikely that it's a big issue in the AFL... But I can't say it's not.
"Maybe I am naïve about the whole lot of it, thinking, 'well I know my club and I know the environment in which I played for 12 years was as clean as you could get.' I don't know."