Clonoulty-Rossmore retain spirit of glory years

As he takes the call in the office of his Toyota dealership in Clonmel, John Kennedy looks at the framed photograph of Clonoulty-Rossmore’s 1997 senior county-winning team. The win, over Mullinahone, doubled the two-time All-Ireland SHC winner’s county senior medal haul, following the 1989 success against Holycross-Ballycahill.

Clonoulty-Rossmore retain spirit of glory years

As he takes the call in the office of his Toyota dealership in Clonmel, John Kennedy looks at the framed photograph of Clonoulty-Rossmore’s 1997 senior county-winning team. The win, over Mullinahone, doubled the two-time All-Ireland SHC winner’s county senior medal haul, following the 1989 success against Holycross-Ballycahill.

That triumph 21 years ago, when Kennedy was 33, would seem a fine way to bookend a career, but he looks back on it with a degree of disappointment.

“Suffice to say, we have regrets that we should have done more, but you would always say that. Our team was one that probably underachieved and expectations were high.

“We had some outstanding players, like Declan (Ryan), Bobby (Michael Kennedy), Noel Keane, Kevin Ryan, but this has come early for some of the young fellas now.

“John O’Keeffe (who turns 30 next month) is probably the oldest on the team now, at centre-back.”

The bloodlines between that team and the current one are strong. For instance, rising star and recent All-Ireland U21 winner, Dillon Quirke, is the son of Dan, who was on the bench in 1997, and Hazel, who is sister of Andrew Fryday. Andrew lined out in goal in 1989 and ’97.

Hazel’s sister, Olive, is married to former Tipperary star and manager, Declan Ryan.

“His application is fantastic — he’s a real worker,” glows Kennedy about Quirke. “I was going to say unlike his father, Dan — he would love me for saying that! I keep slagging Dan that he gets all his hurling from the Fryday side of the family. He’s fierce committed and he’s a strong guy.

“He pushes himself about and he was the type of physical presence that Clonoulty needed. He’s only 19 and he looks to have a bright future ahead of him.”

Kennedy has allowed himself to imagine that if he had remained in Clonoulty, his sons — Limerick City defender, Colman, Tipperary senior footballer, Jack, and up-and-coming footballer, Conal, all Clonmel Commercials men — would have lined out instead for his home club.

“I was never at home. I was on the road here, there, and everywhere, since I was 18 or 19. When kids get settled and they go to a school, and they have their mates, and it was always the big ball down there and soccer. They played hurling until they were 18.

“Yeah, I often said to them that if we were back living in Clonoulty, they would never have seen a football. Well, we saw it sparingly — they allowed it once or twice in the village. It was just dictated by location. We’re about 20-odd miles from Clonoulty, but, unfortunately, it never occurred.”

In 1997, Kennedy was one of a handful living outside the parish, but now almost everyone is a John Kennedy. Manager, John Devane, touched on the commitment shown by players to keep returning home for training and it impresses Kennedy no end.

“The same pride of the parish is consistent between our team and this one now. This current group have it in abundance, in fairness to them. The loyalty to the club, from those young players, has been great.

“Modern-day living, small parishes and that, predominantly a lot of these guys are living away. A huge commitment is required and to manage it with the way the club season is gone would have been difficult, too, for John. Taking two months off in the middle of the year was a bit of a risk, but it was probably the right thing to do, with so few games coming up and he looks to have read the situation well.”

Tomorrow’s final appearance, against Nenagh Éire Óg, has also been accomplished in spite of other elements, such as the loss of seasoned men, Seán Maher and John O’Neill, to injuries.

“I wouldn’t have envisaged them getting to where they are at the start of the year. Having said that, they’ve been producing some good underage hurlers.

“Some people might have felt their time had gone, after the couple of county finals (2010, ‘11), but they’ve infused the team with young talent again. They’ve lost lads like Seán Maher and John O’Neill, but their attitude has always been good.

“With the loss of those two players, expectations would have been dampened more, but on the field they work really hard as a unit and that always gives them a chance, even though Nenagh will be fancied.”

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