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Tadhg Kennelly Opens Up On His Short-Lived Stint In English Football

Tadhg Kennelly Opens Up On His Short-Lived Stint In English Football
By Ellen McConville
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Tadhg Kennelly is best known for being a dual star on both the Gaelic pitch and the AFL field. He is the only footballer to hold both an All-Ireland medal and an AFL Premiership medallion.

However, the Listowel native also had a go at soccer, having a short stint with Blackburn Rovers when he was 15.

Speaking in a brilliant interview with Jarlath Regan on his 'An Irish Man Abroad' podcast, he describes how growing up he was sports mad and tried his hand at whatever sport was being played.

I grew up a sports fanatic, I went to school and any sport that was being played, I was playing it and having a crack at it.

In a small country town in Kerry, in Listowel, you had two sports really, football and soccer, a bit of athletics and to get a day out of school you played a bit of badminton or something like that.

I played my soccer, really enjoyed it, one thing lead to the next, and when I was about 12 or 13, our local football team went to England, played a bit of soccer and started getting a bit of interest from a couple of clubs, Rovers, and West Brom as well.

I played a couple of Irish trials for under-15, and from there Blackburn offered me to go over and spend a bit of time over there.


However, the stint in Blackburn was short lived, as it quickly became clear that soccer wasn't the sport for Kennelly, as he couldn't settle and adapt to the change of lifestyle.

I went over, and pretty much just couldn’t crack it to tell you the truth. Not that I couldn’t crack it, I suppose I was quite young. 15-years-of-age, and I wasn’t sure at all about what I wanted to do. You get there, and all of sudden, you’re up at six, half six, seven o’clock, training for an hour and a half, two hours, go to school, come back and train.

It was very, you could say army orientated, sergeant kind of stuff. I wasn’t ready for it I suppose at that age. And nor was I very sure did I actually love the sport at that age, to tell you the truth, so yeah I decided after a couple of months that it wasn’t for me. I decided to pack up and come back.

Looking back on it now, Kennelly describes it as one of the bravest things that he has ever done in his life.

It wasn’t an easy thing to do. When you back to a small country town like where I came from, that’s where the world was for me you know. Three, three and a half thousand people, you got two secondary schools, you come back. I leave obviously thinking I’m a god, and you come back almost with your tail between your legs.

I suppose it was, at the time I didn’t look at it as being that much of a brave decision, but in hindsight, it was one of bravest decisions I have ever made. The worst thing that I could have ever done was stayed there, and say nothing. So with a couple of years, that probably could have the worst thing I’d ever done, mentally and for my development as a young man and adult. It certainly was a brave decision, at the time, you’re coming back and facing people you know, and you’ve really failed.

Being a sports person, it’s not something that sits too lightly with people you know, when you fail at something, because we are involved in an industry that is that is very much about winning. As a 15-year-old, coming back having failed, in hindsight I look back on it as one of the biggest moments in my life, as far as a driving force for what came in the future, but at the time you know I was very different, I looked at it and went, ‘I failed’ and you start questioning your self belief.

An early move to Blackburn is only a small snippet of his discussion with Regan.

During the superb hour-long discussion, which will be released in full this Sunday, he speaks about the poor mental place he was in during his first few years in Australia, his fear of failure, the loss of his father and the pressure of returning to the Kerry team.


See Also: The GAA Players Who've Played Soccer 'Across The Water' XI


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