From wielding ‘big wooden spoons’ in Leeds to Croke Park Even after all these years, Edmond Kenny still gets a kick from the questions he gets asked about his hurley. A quantity surveyor with a dose of wanderlust, he’s worked, lived and hurled in all the major hot-spots; London, America, Australia and just about anywhere you care to mention in the north of England.
Currently based in Manchester, the Wexford man will run out today at Croke Park in the Lancashire colours for the Lory Meagher Cup final. The home of Gaelic games is a far cry from where the Lancashire players often train, in a public park in Leeds, drawing quizzical looks and queries from locals.
“The funny looks and the questions, all the time, it’s ‘What are those sticks?’” smiled Kenny. “You get all sorts of comments whenever you go outside of Ireland really. People have actually asked me, ‘Are they big wooden spoons?’
"I remember back in America in 2008, I was out there for the summer and some of the things they’d be asking you about the hurls, you’d have to laugh. But even those little interactions increase the interest too.”
Kenny, a north Wexford man from the Kilrush-Askamore club, has been based in Manchester for several years now. It’s where the work is and while he says there’s more to go around now in Ireland, it would probably mean him getting a job in Dublin.
“With traffic and everything in Ireland, if I was in Dublin from Monday to Friday, I might as well nearly be in Manchester,” he said, reasoning that from door to door he can make it back home in five hours.
He makes the trip a little more often nowadays as a newly married man though says there are no immediate plans to return. He smiles:
Down the line I’m sure there will be children and what not so we might have to reassess
It means that for the foreseeable future he will continue to commit to Lancashire, a team captained by former Wexford senior hurler Greg Jacob. They’re based at the Old Bedians Sports Centre, a multi-use facility within greater Manchester though with players based as far away as Newcastle in the north-east, training is often in Leeds.
“It’s over an hour from Manchester to Leeds, almost two hours for the boys coming from Newcastle,” said Kenny.
“You try to travel in a group as much as possible. There’d be lads coming from Liverpool, Manchester and from right across the country so everyone tries to pool in. It’s a joint effort and to be fair, the training is good.
There’s no shortage of intensity.
“There’s no point in dwelling on difficulties or whinging about it. It is what it is and for weekends like this it makes it worthwhile.”
The Lancashire players arrived in Dublin yesterday and checked into the Croke Park hotel next to the stadium.
They’re keen to make up for last year’s final defeat to Sligo when they hit 2-20 — 1-8 of which came from Kenny — but were undone by the four goals sniped by Sligo, losing by a point.
“The turnover hasn’t been too bad, you’re probably only talking about maybe five lads that we lost from the group,” said Kenny. “Sometimes it can be a lot higher. From the 15 that started last year’s final, you’ll probably have 10 or 11 that will be there or thereabouts to go again.”
Yet as much as they strive for a precious piece of silverware, playing for Lancashire is as much a statement of identity and belonging as it is a sporting endeavour.
“Totally,” nodded Kenny. “I lived in Australia for a few years too and the GAA overseas, no matter where you go, if you have the GAA to fall back on it gives you an immediate social scene. At times it can be more social than anything else, depending on where you go, but it is great too. Out in Australia the GAA scene was massive too.
“The big thing about playing in the UK is that you have this opportunity to get back and play in Croke Park. You obviously don’t have that in Australia and, to be honest, most players in Ireland don’t ever get to play there. So it’s a special thing for all of us and we appreciate it.”