Eamon Fennell still receives taunts about his protracted transfer to St Vincent’s from O’Toole’s two years ago.
As he prepares to line out for the Marino club in Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final against Ballinderry, the 29-year-old midfielder admits the hold-up, which lasted over three and a half years, still haunts him.
“I get it said the odd time and there are always people that are going to chirp in now and again with that stupid remark, and I do hate it because things didn’t go the way I would have liked in O’Toole’s.
“My mam is from Scotland but she moved to Marino when she moved to Dublin; my granddad played for Vincent’s; my mam is head of the Marino Credit Union for years… there are strong connections with Marino, so I have got that bond there with the area anyway.
“People can say what they want to me about it, but I knew what I wanted to do, and I know the response I’ve got from the people in Marino, so that’s all I care about.”
Fennell, who hasn’t featured for Dublin under Jim Gavin, is not still 100% fit after doing damage to cartilage in his ankle. He’s also torn a calf, had a hip operation and taken a PRP (platelet rich plasma) injection for a dead hamstring.
The time apart from the inter-county panel, though, has helped him forge stronger relations with his second club. In winning a county and provincial title at the end of last year, the switch has been worth the hassle.
“Even when I got suspended in 2009 for the year, it is these things you sort of hope and pray for and dreamt about. I have been very lucky to get a Dublin championship and a Leinster championship, but there was a lot of work to go into it.
“I think I really had to really make a step-up this because I hadn’t had too much of an impact with Vincent’s since I got the transfer.
“So being away from the Dublin camp allowed me to focus a bit more with the club, and it was great for me to fully experience everything that goes on in the club and to try and get involved a bit more in the club, from a social side as well, and get to know the people around the club.”
Fennell anticipates St Vincent’s will have to grind it out against the Ulster champions in Newry. Sporting a black eye, he says their preparations have been hard-hitting.
“We looked at them slightly, we haven’t done much on them. They’re a strong physical team and on a narrow pitch like Newry, you’re going to get a few more hits on the body.
“It’s just a matter of us trying to implement that into our own training session and we’re doing that at the moment as you can tell by my eye! We’re expecting that kind of challenge — you always do against a lot of the northern opposition.”
Together with Ger Brennan, Diarmuid Connolly and Tomás Quinn, Fennell won an All-Ireland title three years ago and recognises what Quinn, their best player in Dublin and Leinster, has brought to the team since his inter-county retirement.
“He’s incredible. He’s like Benjamin Button. He’s a great bloke, he’s a fantastic person and he’s very knowledgeable. When he talks, you listen. He has so much respect, not only in Dublin but once you come into Vincent’s, people just look up to him.”
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