Kerry’s Tadhg Kennelly had been having a most magnificent year in a Gaelic footballing context, until last Sunday morning. Home from Oz, back with the Kerry panel, he collects a national football league medal, an All-Ireland medal and only last weekend an All-Star. Happy days. Just sit back and enjoy the harvest over the next few months, either in Kerry or back in Australia.
However Dermot Crowe in the Sunday Independent put paid to that plan when he informed the nation that according to Kennelly’s own autobiography, he had fully intended to nail a Cork player in the first few minutes of the All-Ireland final.
In his book Kennelly says he disclosed his intentions to room-mate Paul Galvin on the eve of the final.
“I'm going to charge in and hit someone at the start,” he told Galvin.
That premeditated tactic came to pass when Cork’s Nicholas Murphy received a very high and dangerous shoulder charge from Kennelly immediately after the throw-in.
Sligo’s Marty Duffy took no action against the Listowel man, even though the offence was a category two transgression under the rule book, and merited a red card.
“My theory,” explains Kennelly, “was that I really wanted to set the tone for our side. As we got to our positions, I looked across at Galvin, who nodded, and then positioned myself on the line ready to race in when the referee put the ball in the air. My eyes were almost rolling around in the back of my head. I was like a raging bull.”
In the book he says he “timed it right” and caught Murphy “perfectly on the chin”. His message was: “Cop that. It's different this time, boys.”
Personally when I read that last Sunday evening, I wondered why is he coming out with this garbage? He has had a great year, why bring his pre-match intentions into the public domain?
It is not like it is a state secret that most players like to lay down a marker early on in a game to announce their intention to win the game.
Many players’ objective is to be as physical as possible in the first few contacts that you have with the opposition and especially your direct opponent.
That is not to say that you elbow someone in the head.
A player wants to set the tone for the game. You start as you mean to go on and if you can win the first few balls it gives you confidence and self-belief and does the opposite to your opponent.
There are no field games, rugby, soccer, American football, AFL, where players would not like to start by dominating the first few plays and being as aggressive as possible, within the rules. So Kennelly’s desire to do so is nothing new, however considering that he almost took the head off Murphy and was lucky to stay on the field, it was a bit asinine of him to put the quotes that are in the book into it.
‘Cop that’ — sounds like Biff, Boom, Bang from a child’s comic
The “Cop that” expression is more reminiscent of a Batman and Robin comic strip then an autobiography that you’d want to go out and buy.
After a few days of being slammed in the national press, including some letter writers, and on the majority of GAA websites, Kennelly issued a contrite statement last Wednesday that sought to clarify his position. For many it appeared to be rather stage-managed.
He is resolute the comments from his autobiography were hugely misrepresentative and that the first he saw of them were in last Sunday’s newspaper excerpts.
“The controversy arising from the incident in the All-Ireland final and an account of which was published in the Sunday Independent has devastated both me and my family. I admit I have made a mistake and a big one. I should never have allowed the piece regarding the incident with Nicholas to be described in the fashion it was.
“I gave an interview to my Australian ghost writer Scotty Gallon just a couple of days after the All-Ireland. I didn’t read it over as I should have, and the first account I saw of the incident was on last Sunday morning.
“Scotty used an expression ‘cop that’ to describe my feelings immediately after I connected with Nicholas.
“I didn’t plan to tackle any particular Cork man, but I did intend to shoulder charge an opponent immediately the opportunity arose. Shoulder is the key word. On my solemn word, I did not and would never intentionally go out to hurt another footballer. The challenge, I admit, was over the top. I was too pumped up.
“The words ‘while I hadn’t wanted to come in and seriously injure anyone I was determined to make a statement’ were not included in the extract from the book even though this sentence followed on. That one line would have clarified my intentions, but it was not included in the piece.”
The bottom line is that Kennelly should have proof read his own autobiography, especially the final draft. If he didn’t like what he read, he could have taken it out. The controversy over the incident has been huge and will now be remembered just as much as his achievements on the field of play.
That is a pity for him, however as he points out himself, it is nobody’s fault but his own.