Thursday, January 29, 2009
Oz backpacker returns - Kennelly to Kerry
An interesting experiment is about to get under way in gaelic football. No, not the new rules. We're about to gauge whether it's possible to play another sport for close to a decade and come back to the top level here in Ireland, with Tadhg Kennelly's announcement of a retirement from Sydney Swans AFL side and a comeback to Kerry for good. It's a slight surprise that it's come this winter and not next, but it's not unwelcome and it's certainly not without its interesting elements.
Make no mistake, Kennelly will take a call from Jack O'Connor enquiring as to his interest sooner rather than later; being from Kerry and having a family steeped in the tradition, we can only imagine Kennelly will jump at the chance. Jumpthefence can only speculate that O'Connor would want such a fine athlete and intelligent, graceful footballer in his squad. We've been a fan since we first saw young Kennelly as a 16-year old - we shared a pitch with him that day in fact, and he tore Jumpthefence's side to pieces - and though he was coltish and raw, there was talent in everything he did. He's been probably as successful an export as we've had in sporting terms recently, winning an AFL title over there and impressing with an all-action style, energy and the way he took to the game's skills so easily. Then again, a Kerryman has that rhythm with a football of any shape.
That's not to say there won't be questions hanging over him. Kennelly's been pretty injury prone this past couple of years, said to be a factor in him returning. He's not played gaelic football at a decent level in quite some time, and no matter his eagerness or adaptability, there'll be a settling-in period where he'll need to acclimatise to the difference in tackling, the non-mark, the differing spaces and movements of the pitch and players in the Irish code. Where Jack O'Connor might earmark a spot for him will also play a part. We'd hazard a guess it'll be somewhere in the middle third - Kennelly was a roving, scoring half-forward in a previous life, though he may be more suited to a facing onto ball in an attacking wing-back role these days. Another reason to watch this summer with interest. Another reason to back the Kingdom? We'll see.