Being a Clonmel man and a dual player, the natural assumption to make about Seamus Kennedy was that football would be his priority.
After all, it was with the Commercials that he had enjoyed most success growing up. And then several of his club-mate and life-long friends would be on the county senior football panel.
But those facts neglected how much playing for St Mary’s hurling club meant to him as well as the affection for Tipperary hurling his father had instilled in him.
“To be honest, it wasn’t difficult at all,” he says of picking between the two. “And that might sound terrible, but for me growing up, the only thing I ever wanted was to play hurling for Tipperary.
“Dad would be a huge Tipp hurling fan from the Newcastle club just outside Clonmel. I would have always gone to games with him from a very young age. Do I love football? Absolutely. yes. Do I miss playing? Absolutely, yes.
“Some of my best friends we’re playing in that, lads I lived with in college and I’ve grown up with we’re playing so I was delighted.”
Not even moving to his mother’s homeplace of The Nire across the Waterford border at the age of 12 persuaded the 26-year-old to deviate from his dream of wearing the blue and gold.
“The uncles might have tried but there wasn’t much success,” he smiles.
Not even forgettable seasons like last year convinced Kennedy to think otherwise. If anything, failing to qualify from the Munster SHC only greased the wheels for this season. Watching the latter stages of the All-Ireland on holiday in Sorrento was a painful experience irrespective of the beauty of his environs. “I would be lying if I said it was easy to sit there and watch these games going on and I think when we came back training we were determined not to be in that situation again.
Kennedy was a late call-up for the semi-final, not making the announced team, having been dropped following the Munster final.
Sheedy pulled him aside at training “and just said he had a job for me to do and obviously I was absolutely delighted to get the nod. I’ve been in and out of the team this year so any day you do get the nod it’s an absolute privilege.” He was ready for it. “I played in ’16, ’17 and last year as well. I had been in those big days before, you know, so I was able to draw on that experience.”
Memories of that 2016 final win over Kilkenny will warm Kennedy going into Sunday but he appreciates how the Cats have grown with each of their last two games, the semi-final victory over All-Ireland champions Limerick confirming that they are well and truly back.
“Kilkenny were very impressive, but I don’t think it’s any surprise really that Kilkenny were so impressive. Talk about Kilkenny being down or whatever was ridiculous, really. When you look at their panel there are some unbelievable players there so it’s no surprise.”
Having been among the substitutes for a large part of the summer, Kennedy knows the quality that is there if it only truly revealed itself against Wexford. “The impact our bench was absolutely unbelievable. Besides scoring, they had a huge impact on the game and that’s some lift like when you’re playing and maybe starting to feel tired or whatever. I think it goes back to last year and you see the impact the Limerick bench had in them winning the All-Ireland — it’s needed now.”
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