Kelly makes it an All Star line-up at White House

EVEN if you’re an All-Ireland-winning senior hurling captain, an invitation to Washington to meet the President of the United States of America in his seat of office, the White House, can still throw you a little.

So it was for Tipperary’s Eoin Kelly a few months ago.

“The US Embassy made the call,” he explained yesterday of St. Patrick’s Day adventure.

“It was Dan Rooney’s PA, but I thought it was a prank, that I’d be going in to training on the Thursday night and the lads would be having a right laugh.

“She (the PA) said the invitation would be sent out, but I was thinking to myself that I wouldn’t be putting my two big feet into this. That was grand and sure then the invitation came. It was a great opportunity and when I found out Bernard (Brogan, Dublin footballer) was going as well we made contact.

“It was a great opportunity and a great experience, and it worked out well because the finger was broken and I didn’t miss any matches. Declan Ryan (Tipp manager) said to go ahead and don’t miss a chance like that so I was putting no-one out of place. I went on the Tuesday and came back the following Sunday.”

And how was it, the experience of meeting a man more powerful even than Kilkenny full-back Noel Hickey – Barack Obama? “There was the St Patrick’s Day reception and that was easy-going enough. All I was interested in was getting into the White House and experiencing the whole thing in there.

“We were lucky enough because we were up the front and we got to shake hands with him and that was it – there was no two-way conversation. It was very quick, but it was breaking new ground for GAA guys. It would be great if two more GAA players got the chance next year and for the next few years because they (the official Irish party) go over every year. It’s an experience that will live long in the memory. Glen Hansard (Oscar-winning Irish actor and musician) was doing the entertainment and sure, as Irish do, there was a reception so everyone enjoyed the afters.”

Then there’s that broken finger he mentioned, and this has given him a break from hurling of a very different kind, a most unwelcome kind.

“It’s a month next Sunday and I can’t give a certain return date. It was a compound fracture and the nail went off. There was no operation but there was a bit of rooting and tearing at it and it’s a fair sore thing.

“I’d be hopeful to be back for the Wexford game (April 17, final league game) but I won’t say that for sure because I have to try it out in training, maybe next week.

“So far I can’t do any hurling or ball drills, but there’s always someone worse than you out there with injuries so I’m not going to start complaining.”

Timing-wise it could have been a lot worse, but with Tipperary’s first championship game not until May 29 (Cork in Thurles), it gives Eoin plenty of recovery time.

“I got it at the right time — if I’d got it at the start of May I’d have been in bother. It’s just frustrating – you get all the pre-season done and you want to be playing games, so please God it will come right in a couple of weeks.

“Every player wants to play and that’s it, though there mightn’t be places for many boys after last Sunday (Tipp beat Galway, in Galway, by a whopping 18 points in the league), though that would only spur you on.”

Eoin was speaking in Coppinger’s Bar in Thurles, a pub in which teammate and 2010 hurler-of-the-year Lar Corbett has gone into partnership with Kevin Coppinger.

“For the last two and a half years, the work is just not out there,” Lar – an electrician – explained. “Myself and Kevin sat down in the last couple of months and we saw an opening, hopefully it takes off. It’s on the way to Semple Stadium, a great location and any of the inter-county teams that are playing in the stadium — it’s the place to come to for anybody to enjoy themselves for an hour before the game.”

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