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Mark O'Connor's Aussie Rules Teammates Could Not Believe 'Begrudging' Irish Attitude

Mark O'Connor's Aussie Rules Teammates Could Not Believe 'Begrudging' Irish Attitude
By PJ Browne
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Over the weekend, following Tomás Ó Sé's column in the Irish Independent regarding the recruitment of Irish players for Aussie Rules clubs, Mark O'Connor felt compelled to defend Tadhg Kennelly.

Ó Sé said that he had nothing against Kennelly personally but 'hates' what the Listowel man is doing. Kennelly, himself an All-Ireland winner with Kerry, is the AFL's international talent coordinator. Ó Sé added that he believes Kerry are being taken advantage of.

There is an abundance of apprehension building in the Kingdom about the future of young minor star David Clifford. The Fossa player is rumoured to already be the subject of interest from AFL sides.


O'Connor, who recently made his senior debut for Geelong, sent out a tweet disagreeing with Ó Sé. O'Connor said he was disappointed that people did not recognise the positive impact which Kennelly had on his career.

Speaking on Radio Kerry's Terrace Talk this week, O'Connor said that his Geelong teammates had been astonished to discover how aggrieved people were back in Ireland regarding the recruitment of young players.

When they saw the tweet, they questioned me about it and wanted a bit more information. They couldn't understand why people back home would be so aggrieved. With the way things are, they couldn't understand why people would be begrudging someone who is giving these opportunities. They didn't get involved because it's not something that they understood.

They were trying to get a bit more information off me today and I just gave them both sides of the story. They couldn't really get over it.

O'Connor, a two-time minor All-Ireland winner with Kerry, also elaborated further regarding why he defended Kennelly.

I got in touch with him when I saw that the abuse wasn't stopping towards him which I just found very, very unfair. 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.

O'Connor added that one of the areas in which the GAA could be doing more to help young players in education.

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

Picture credit: Eoin Noonan / SPORTSFILE

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