Tuesday 12 December 2017

Kennelly still hurting over reaction to All-Ireland final hit on Murphy

Ireland's Kevin Reilly, left, and Tadhg Kennelly arrive onto the pitch for training last night
Ireland's Kevin Reilly, left, and Tadhg Kennelly arrive onto the pitch for training last night
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Tadhg Kennelly admitted yesterday he was disappointed with the reaction in some quarters to the extract from his autobiography that captured in detail his challenge on Nicholas Murphy in the first few seconds of last year's All-Ireland final.

The Kerry man, now embedded back with Sydney Swans, where he is in the middle of a two-year contract, has been back on Irish soil for the last 10 days in preparation for the International Rules series.

But he has once again re-affirmed that he never intentionally went out to harm Murphy or any other Cork player in the All-Ireland final, despite a different portrayal in the book which was written by an Australian ghost writer.

"I think the way it was interpreted was that I had planned to go out and hit Nicholas Murphy straight away. If I tried to plan what happened there is no way in the world I would have been able to do it," he said.

"That was the thing that irritated me the most. Personally, I expected more from people who thought I would go out and do something like that. It really got up my nose more than anything else.

"I talked to Nicholas when it happened straight away. I know Nicholas very well, I played this game with him. I'm quite good friends with Graham Canty and I'm quite good friends with the Cork players.

"It's media, it's the way things are; that's the way people are going to read into things. But the people who know me, the people whose views and opinions I appreciate the most, know the real story.

"I said I was always going to be physically hard in the game because I'd felt Cork intimidating us in the replay down in Cork.

"I got an opportunity to hit a shoulder, yes I was high, but I got an opportunity within 10 seconds to hit someone a belt of a shoulder. I was going to do that any day of the week.

"I wanted to be physically tough in the game just to let them know we were in the game, that we were a different outfit, basically. I wasn't going to be going out trying to clean up every fella on the field. That's not the way I play football.

"Definitely, with an Irish author it would have been (written) different and there's a difference between the two cultures as well."

Kennelly left for Sydney last October after fulfilling his dream of winning an All-Ireland final with Kerry and admitted that his return to Croke Park yesterday gave him "a shiver".

He's had a good season with the Swans in Australia. They reached the play-off stages and he played 20 of their 24 games, the year's rest and recuperation away from the AFL clearly helping his ongoing injury problems.

What surprised him most on his return was how the game had quickened in Australia, even in 12 months.

"To see how much it changed in a year was unbelievable," he said. "It has got a lot quicker. It was a challenge again for me and it was great to play the year out and have a good year."

He admitted he'd "never say never" to another return to Kerry at some stage in the future and got to see most of their games this summer, mainly in the company of Tommy Walsh.

"Every time I'm down there (Melbourne), I meet up with him. I'm constantly on the phone with him. I ring most of the players over there to see how they are. I have been through a lot of it. I know how hard it is being in that situation."

Kennelly feels Walsh has a strong future in the game, even though his girlfriend has returned to take up a medical position in Ireland.

"Tommy has had a great year. He played a lot of games (with St Kilda) in the reserves. They played him all over the park to see where he was most comfortable. But I have no doubt he will play senior football next year," he said.

"I saw him in one game and he was very, very good. Tommy now is after getting bigger. You can see the size of him, if that's possible. He obviously had a lot of natural strength but now they have been able to tone that and get it into physical strength with weights.

"Staying will be difficult now. His girlfriend is after getting a position over at home as a doctor. She was over there with him for the year.

"But I think Tommy has a very similar sort of mentality to myself. He has a fear of failure."

Kennelly is excited by the series and feels the improvement in AFL and Gaelic football can make International Rules a better game.

"What we're great at is our speed of ball, our skills and our composure on the ball. They are very good at tackling. The best thing of the whole lot is that the two games have changed drastically in five years."

Irish Independent

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