Interview with Tadhg Kennelly

January 8th, 2013
by Weeshie Fogarty

Tadhg Kennelly as always, courteous, charming, eloquent, an interviewers dream, no beating about the bush when asked questions. It's always a pleasure to have a chat with the Listowel Emmett's man and following the recent North Kerry Championship drawn final I met up with Tadhg in the Emmett's club house. The 30-year-old has played 190 games since joining Sydney Swans via the rookie draft as a 17-year-old Gaelic footballer from Listowel. He remains the only Irish-born player to have won a premiership medallion with the Sydney Swans in 2005. He was home recently to spend Christmas with his family accompanied by his beautiful new bride Australian born Nicola Noonan. He is beginning to adjust having retired from his life as a professional footballer with Sydney Swans and it gave me the opportunity to question him as to where his new life is leading him

I first put it to him that it must be very difficult to adjust to life away from the daily training and playing before packed stadiums in Australia. "Its very difficult and still very hard to come to terms with because you were paid to put on your football boots and that's all I knew since 1999 and you have almost become institutionalized, I played for thirteen years and I know there have been big problems with players who have retired, they can get depressed and don't know how to spend their time. Everything is pretty much done for you as a professional footballer. Your organized and very regimented, everything is planned and timed for you".  Indeed I had read that an issue very common in AFL football is depression following a player's retirement so I questioned Tadhg in relation to this. "I have been very lucky in opportunities that have come my way", he explained. " I have done some media work and I am doing some recruiting for the AFL and I am coaching as well over there so I have been very lucky  opportunities have been there, others are not so lucky. Footballers in general all have egos and we never think we are going to finish and that our playing time will never come to an end and really you just don't prepare for it but I had put a few thing in place to help myself in the transition out of it. Really you finish and you are joining the work force as a person of thirty two years of age and this is very foreign to you because as I said you are very much institutionalized.  However its been a fantastic year for me I got to travel a lot and do things for the AFL internationally which is brilliant"

He had mentioned the word ego explaining that footballers have those big egos when they are playing  so I put it to him since he retired did he see everything from a different perspective. "I certainly do Weeshie because when you are playing football that was all that mattered in my life, there was nothing else mattered, it was the be all and end all but then when you retire you begin to realize that there are other thing to life and that's a good part of it because I must admit when you are there and involved in the moment with your ego then that's it and nothing else matters. Then you finish and you realize the worlds a lot bigger place, you come out of that bubble or cocoon that you have been in for so long and all great players and sportsmen here and around the world experience this".

Tadhg's life has now taken a completely new turn and he has been fortunate to fall into a project that will help him ease from the competitor to retirement and spend more time at home in Listowel where he hopes to continue playing with his club and Feale Rangers. And indeed when I put it to him that if a call up to the Kerry juniors or seniors came  would he  be available for selection he laughed and said "don't be putting words into my mouth", but note, he didn't say no and I got very strong vibes that he would love to wear the green and gold one more time. He now travels the world trying to recruit players for the AFL from China, New Zealand, Papa New Guinea, Europe and America and of course Ireland. There's a shortage of footballers in the Australian clubs so his job is to travel the world and find new talent.  When I asked him about the disquiet here in Ireland in relation to the "poaching" of our best young GAA talent and two players in particular Sean Hurley from Kildare and Emmett Bradley from Derry who have signed up recently  he replied. "Of course I will be perceived as the big bad wolf coming to take away players and those two lads you mentioned have settled in very well at the combine in Melbourne. The combine is a draft where we have physical and mental testing. The clubs look at the players in the combine and its my job to sell the player to the clubs. I'm not affiliated to any club, I'm affiliated to the AFL. You have eighteen clubs looking at all these players and we won't know for another while how all of this works out".

It's an exciting time for Tadhg travelling the world, son of the late great Tim Kennelly both he and his brother Noël who also took part in the interview expressed their great shock and sadness when learning of the death of Paidi o Se who was a close and personal friend of their dads. They have vivid and wonderful memories of the legendary Ventry man visiting their home on many occasions and teaching them the catching and kicking skills of the game. Noel also spoke about his great expectations for the Kerry under twenty one's, he is a selector with Darragh o Se this year but at the end of the day the one abiding memory that shone out for me following my meting with the lads was Tadhg's tremendous love for his family, Listowel Emmett's, Feale Rangers and Kerry. Both young men remind me greatly of their renowned late father and are the proverbial "chips off the old block". A joy to interview you come away feeling much better after being in their company.

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