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  • "I'd Say Babs Is Still On The Nokia 32 10!" - We Speak To Tipp GAA Cult Hero Winner - Eoin Kelly

"I'd Say Babs Is Still On The Nokia 32 10!" - We Speak To Tipp GAA Cult Hero Winner - Eoin Kelly

"I'd Say Babs Is Still On The Nokia 32 10!" - We Speak To Tipp GAA Cult Hero Winner - Eoin Kelly
Conor Neville
By Conor Neville
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All people blessed with a sense of proportion knew that the American presidential election was a mere sideshow. The biggest poll this week, and the one with greater implications for the immediate future, was the vote to find the ultimate Tipperary GAA cult hero.

Also, we don't have any of that electoral college nonsense. There is no difference between the winner of the popular vote and the winner of the actual vote in the Tipperary GAA cult hero poll.

With most of the precincts reporting, Balls.ie can project that Eoin Kelly is the winner with 33% of the vote. He finished 6% clear of Patrick 'Bonner' Maher on in second place. Declan Browne finished in 3rd spot.

The results implied a strong youth turnout, a demographic pattern which may have been fatal to the chances of the other two contenders John Leahy and Cormac Bonnar.

This evening, we had the privilege of speaking to the Tipperary cult hero elect, Eoin Kelly. (We had also, unwittingly, farmed out the job of informing him of his victory to former Clare hurler Niall Gilligan).

His inaugural address as the Tipperary GAA cult hero centred on his desire for tickets to the McGregor fight in Las Vegas, the unbeatable cult hero-ness of not-nominated Ger 'Redser' O'Grady, and Babs Keating's relationship with modern technology. 

Eoin Kelly Tipperary

Well, Eoin, how do you feel about winning this, unquestionably the most prestigious honour of your career? 

I'll tell you. I was made aware of it by former Clare hurler Niall Gilligan. He whatsapped it (the poll) onto me. He wrote 'John Leahy?' in the message. I think that's who he was voting for as a cult hero.

When you texted me I was wondering was it a prank. But sure look, it's nice I suppose to be picked ahead of a few of them boys. But I think we have our own current cult heroes in Tipperary at the minute. I'd say there'd be a few of them'll be topping polls for the next five or six years. Paudie Maher or a few boys like that. They're our current cult heroes at the minute, aren't they?

Their time will come, Eoin.

C'mere to me, there might have one or two omission from that list. The great Ger 'Redser' O'Grady. I see that he's omitted from that survey. He's surely a cult hero from my time, so he is!

We canvassed many journalists from Tipp. If you've complaints about your victory, direct them at them.

Right, right, here, d'you want my address there to send on the flights to Las Vegas? Is that the prize you win for this, it is?

We'll get back to you. We're in intense negotiations with the money men upstairs. I'll get onto later on tonight about those tickets.  

No bother, I might bring a bus load of lads from Mullinahone, so I might.

Moving along very quickly, we were delighted to learn, via Jackie Cahill, that you went by the nickname 'Son of God' on the terraces. 

Someone told me afterwards, was it Brian Carthy? He told me there was a story to that from before the 2006 Munster Final. Redser was our captain and he was doing one or two endorsements as the captain. And Brian Carthy was interviewing him before the Munster Final.  Brian is saying "Tipp in the Munster Final... How do ye feel?"


I must have been there in the dressing room. At that time, journalists had access to dressing rooms. And Redser said "sure look, we've God in the corner over there." And he pointed at me. I'd say that's where it started. All from Redser being interviewed by Brian Carthy.


Why do you think Tipperary fans continue to hold you in such regard?

Listening to people and meeting people since I retired, the thing they always say is "you were the main forward, and you carried us when our team wasn't so good."


That's what they say to you when you meet them. But sometimes, I'd probably disagree with that. We lost one or two games, even when we weren't great, by a point or two. I remember Paul O'Brien scoring a last minute goal back in 2004 to knock us out of the Munster championship and Waterford went onto win the Munster final. And then in 2007, we had Limerick beaten. It was the trilogy and we had them beaten the first two days.


In the lean years, I was probably scoring freely. And I was young and hurling carefree and playing well. I suppose they (supporters) remember you for that.

And then to finish up captaining Tipp to win an All-Ireland. A lot of people would be happy for you that you went through the lean period, having no success and then towards the latter end of your career, you end up captaining Tipperary to win a famous All-Ireland, stopping Kilkenny winning five-in-a-row.

What happened to Tipperary in that lean period between the departure of Nicky English and the arrival of Liam Sheedy? Why did the team struggle? 

I think personally there was a lot of chopping and changing with Tipperary managers. In my career, I had six or seven managers, I started with Nicky English, Michael Doyle, Ken Hogan, Babs Keating, Liam Sheedy, Declan Ryan, Eamon O'Shea. There's seven different managers in a fourteen year career.

You look at any successful teams, the Manchester Uniteds, the Kilkennys, the Kerrys, what's the common denominator, they've one manager the whole time. It doesn't help. When a new manager comes in, he's different ideas. That bit of assurance that they had when they had a manager, that kind of goes.

Your inter-county career followed a strange pattern. Great success at both the beginning and end of your career with a lean period in the middle. Can you explain the difference between winning an All-Ireland as a very young player and winning as a senior player and a captain?



When you win it so young, you're expecting to win it every year. You win it young, it's great. You don't fully understand it or appreciate it. You think you're going to be back next year and the next two or three years. And then you get to a stage where you're not even getting past the quarter-final stage like we were in Tipp.

So, when you get back to the final in '09 and win it in '10, you really appreciate it. It was nearly a relief. I think if you were to win it early and never win it again, you would feel strange. You would never have fully understood it. So I winning again in 2010 made me understand what you had to go through and how hard it is. Relief is nearly the overriding emotion.

I started in 2000 and finished up in 2014. For a fourteen year career... we didn't contest a hell of a lot of All-Ireland's. But sure for some guys they never got to contest an All-Ireland or never win an All-Ireland either, your Waterford and Limerick guys.

I came along when you had a team like Kilkenny, they had players that come along maybe once in a generation, Henry Shefflin, Tommy Walsh, JJ Delaney, Jackie Tyrrell. They all came along together so I suppose you could say I came along at an unlucky time. But sure, to win two All-Ireland's when they were still strong. It's something you can look back on and be happy with.


You played for a decade and a half with Tipperary, what was your best season personally? 

I'd say 2006 was the best season I had. We beat Limerick in Thurles and I scored 0-14 points on the day. And then following it up three weeks later in the Munster semi-final against Waterford and scored 2-9. But then we were beaten by Cork in the Munster Final in Thurles by a goal. That's when I hit top form, but my game changed probably afterwards with injury.

The injury. You picked up a cruciate ligament injury in this year's Tipp senior championship. There's a lot of speculation about this being the end of your career. Is it?

I'm nearly in denial about it at this stage. I'll get the operation before Christmas and see it goes. Some lads were telling me that when you get an injury like that you can come back hungrier. But you don't know how an operation like that'll go. 2017 is probably ruled out but after that who knows. I might end up back where I started - in the goal!

Finally, we come to the big question. The one everyone wanted answered. Does he think Babs voted for him?

I'd say Babs is still on the Nokia 32 10 I'd say, is he?.... I'd say he wouldn't be up to speed on the wifi, would he?.... The Balls.ie app.

He might have that app, you don't know.

I'd take me chances, I'd say he could be a Nokia 32 10 man.

Eoin Kelly is the second winner in our GAA cult hero series. John Doyle won the award for Kildare last time out. Next week, we head to Ulster and commence our search to find the ultimate Donegal GAA cult hero. 

Read more: "My Wife Voted For Dermot" - The Ultimate Kildare GAA Cult Hero Speaks About His Career




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