Saturday 21 April 2018

Mark O'Connor defends Tadhg Kennelly over Tomás Ó Sé criticism and fires back at begrudging Irish attitude

Jack O'Toole

Geelong defender and former Kerry minor winning captain Mark O'Connor has defended the AFL's international talent coordinator and Kerry All-Ireland winner Tadhg Kennelly from recent criticism the ex-Sydney Swans player received from former teammate Tomás Ó Sé.

In his column in last Saturday's Irish Independent, Ó Sé hit out at the practice of AFL clubs luring top Irish GAA talents abroad with the five-time All-Ireland winner taking particular umbrage with Kennelly for his role in identifying young players to go to Australia, with Kerry underage star David Clifford the latest underage star to be linked with a move to the AFL.

O'Connor, who made his Geelong debut last weekend after moving over to Melbourne in October of last year, defended Kennelly in his role in bringing him from Dingle to Geelong and added that the begrudging attitude of Irish people towards his move to Australia had aggravated him.

"I saw that the abuse wasn't stopping towards him which I just found very, very unfair," O'Connor told Radio Kerry's Terrace Talk podcast.

"I have a lot to be thankful to Tadhg for, for what he does bringing us over here and giving us the opportunity to come here and experience a professional lifestyle. I know that I wouldn't have it without him.

"The attitude towards him back home bothered me. He gave me this dream opportunity and others this dream opportunity of coming out here.

"When the criticism was coming in for Tadhg, I don't think anyone on this side responded to the abuse and hate towards what Tadhg is doing grew and grew. I just felt that it was time to actually say something. It's not something that I feel is right, that he's getting this type of abuse.

"It's not just Tomás article, it's the attitude in general towards it. The opportunity out here is incredible. I think the attitude of people back home is that they're blaming who's giving these opportunities but they're not blaming why it's happening.

"The key issue for me is that rather than blaming Tadhg Kennelly, more opportunity should be provided for people back home that were in a similar situation to myself."

The AFL provide a multitude of different educational pathways for players looking to further their study whilst playing, and O'Connor feels that improving educational pathways is just one of the factors that the GAA needs to consider in their bid to stop young players from heading abroad.

"People were saying that if you go over to Australia, you leave your education behind, but you don't," added O'Connor.

"They actually provide an education over here if you want it. I know that a lot of my friends over here are attending Uni and playing professionally at the same time.

"I think that's one thing, if they [GAA] helped on the education side of things. Again, that's only one thing. Obviously, they don't have the resources that they have over here but at the same time I think they could be doing a lot more."

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