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'I struggled to kick a round ball' | Kennelly on his difficult return to GAA

In 2009, after a decade of playing Australian Rules Football with the Sydney Swans, Tadhg Kennell...



'I struggled to kick a round b...
Football

'I struggled to kick a round ball' | Kennelly on his difficult return to GAA

In 2009, after a decade of playing Australian Rules Football with the Sydney Swans, Tadhg Kennelly finally made the decision he had long thought about while Down Under. 

With an AFL Premiership medal in his pocket, the then 27-year-old decided to return to Kerry GAA and chase a lifelong dream of winning an All-Ireland Championship with his county, just as his father, Tim, and brother, Noel, had done before him.

However, despite his family history and a youth spent playing football for the Kingdom's underage teams, returning to GAA after a decade was not straightforward, as Kennelly explained on OTB Sports' new offering, The Bernard Brogan Podcast.

"It wasn't easy, boy," the former Listowel Emmets man told Brogan on the first episode of his new podcast.

"I actually thought it would be easier because I'd played the Aussie Rules every year, or nearly every second year. I felt like I was well able for it."

For Kennelly, returning to compete for Ireland in the International Rules Series games every couple of years allowed him to test himself against the best Gaelic football had to offer.

"I played it a lot when I probably shouldn't have because of injuries, but I wanted to play to see where I was at, if I was still up for it and able to keep going with the best in the country.

"Because I was still able to, it used to give me the confidence to go, 'Right, okay, I'm okay at this level. I don't need to rush to get back.' And that helped a small bit with my confidence to go back.

Returning in 2009 to the intercounty set up, Kennelly anticipated he would be primed to slot comfortably back into the sport.

But it came with its challenges, as Kennelly recalled to Brogan. "It wasn't easy, I'd spent 10 years kicking an oval ball, like."

"The natural habits of doing something had become unnatural again with a Gaelic football.

"I remember going back and I'd struggle, man, to kick a round ball – I never thought I'd say it, you know."

It was a matter of going back to the basics of the sport and hoping the technique and natural ability would return quickly.

"You know what my brother said to me? He said, 'Do you remember when we were young fellas, what we used to do?' And I said, 'Yeah, what?'

"And he said, 'The side of the pub, man, we used to just kick the ball off it non-stop.'

"And you know what I did, I was working with Kerry GAA helping out with the schools and I'd finish about two or three o'clock and, down in the handball area in Listowel, there I was, man, kicking the ball non-stop – non-stop.

"I was nearly 30 years of age kicking the ball right foot, left foot, outside of the boot and within two weeks, man, I had it back – that technique."

Reacquainted with the basics, Kennelly's natural ability excelled as he started the All-Ireland semi-final and final, scoring two points in the decider against Cork as Kerry brought home the Sam Maguire Cup.

SuperValu – proud sponsors of the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championships – see YouTube.com/SuperValuIreland for more details


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Aussie Rules Bernard Brogan Dublin GAA Kerry GAA Tadhg Kennelly The Bernard Brogan Podcast