Wednesday 18 September 2019

Kennedy at home in Waterford but Tipp is where his heart resides

Séamus Kennedy. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Séamus Kennedy. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Bordered by eight counties, Tipperary's hurling rivalries are vast and varied, depending on what part of the county you are from.

To the south, the focus is most definitely Waterford. For Seamus Kennedy, it's even more pronounced in that he lives in The Nire over the border from Clonmel where he plays his club hurling and football with St Mary's and Commercials and where he spent his formative years.

"The Nire and Clonmel are neighbouring parishes," he explained. "Mam is from The Nire and Dad is from Newcastle (in Tipperary), so we moved there when I was about 12."

Offers to transfer were always rebuffed. By then the Tipp bug had bitten. "The uncles might have tried but there wasn't much success. I was already well stuck in with Mary's and Commericals at that stage!"

That it was the hurlers he turned to more than the footballers - given where he's from - was a little more surprising.

Territory

Clonmel is at the heart of Tipp football territory and with an All-Ireland minor medal from 2011, when they beat a Dublin side with Jack McCaffrey and Ciarán Kilkenny in its ranks, the expectation was that he would follow that path.

But hurling, Kennedy says, has always been his preference. After an initial spell with the Tipp hurlers in 2014, he returned to the footballers in 2015 but when then manager Michael Ryan came calling with 2016 in mind, Kennedy found it impossible to resist.

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"It wasn't difficult at all," he said of the decision.

"And that might sound terrible. But for me growing up, the only thing I ever wanted was to play hurling for Tipperary. Dad would be a huge Tipp hurling fan. I would have always gone to games with him from a very young age.

"Do I love football? Absolutely, yes. Do I miss playing? Absolutely, yes. But when the decision came and Mick (Ryan) rang me, it was a no-brainer for me.

"I was absolutely delighted for the lads (Tipperary footballers) in 2016 and the run they got to the All-Ireland semi-final.

"Some of my best friends were playing in that, lads I lived with in college and I've grown up with were playing. So I was delighted.

"Growing up, it was definitely more football that I would have played and we'd have been a lot more successful underage in football.

"A lot of our lads are on the Tipp football panel now at the minute but we would have had reasonable success in St Mary's (hurling) .

"Huge work has gone into the club and we're up to senior B now, we've had two minor A successes.

"Although Clonmel is a big football and soccer town, there is a very strong core of hurling supporters there. Like, if you go to a St Mary's match, chances are there'll be more at it than a Commercials match. There's a big following there."

Kennedy has only started two championship games this year but conducted important defensive duties as Liam Sheedy opted for a tailored approach by also introducing the robust Barry Heffernan.

Kennedy always felt he would get his chance, given the length and variables of the season.

"The new format just lends itself to that kind of a situation. There are so many games that lads can hit form, lads come off form or there are injuries.

"I had been in for big day - right half-back on the 2016 team that beat Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final - before so I was able to draw on that experience, which was a big help. Every game takes on a life of its own and the last day it certainly did."

Kennedy spent part of last summer on holidays in Italy where his appreciation for what he was missing grew.

"This time last year, a lot of us were sitting on a beach or sitting somewhere looking in at watching the unbelievable summer of hurling that was going on and it's not easy.

"I would be lying if I said it was easy to sit there and watch these games going on. I think when we came back training we were determined not to be in that situation again."

Kennedy had little contact with Liam Sheedy prior to his appointment - except for a medal presentation to honour one of their minor successes. But his impact has been felt.

"He's so infectious, it's not just at a match, it's at training and it's whether you're meeting him or a phone-call with him, his energy is completely infectious and it gives us all a great lift."

Irish Independent

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