David Matthews suggests Tom Kenny’s decision to retire ruled by commitment not physicality
Cork trainer says there was nothing to indicate veteran was slowing down
Tom Kenny: made his senior debut with Cork in 2003, winning back-to-back All-Ireland titles in 2004 and 2005. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Tom Kenny lines out before the All-Ireland senior hurling semi-final in August. Photograph: Inpho
By retiring at the “veteran” age of 32, Cork hurler Tom Kenny has reinforced the notion of the ever shortening intercounty career – although Kenny may well be the rule rather than the exception.
Kenny’s retirement – while admitting himself he’s “healthy, and it’s not because of injury” – certainly follows the recent trend of footballers and hurlers being shunted off the intercounty stage once they hit their 30s: but Cork hurling trainer David Matthews, who worked with Kenny over the last two years, believes that has nothing to do with their physical fitness.
Instead, Matthews suggests players are being ruled by the commitments of the game, not the limits of their physicality. There will always be exceptions, but they are becoming increasingly rare in the so-called modern game.
“I think with Tom it’s the fact he’s already contributed so much to Cork,” says Matthews, still the Irish record holder over 800 metres. “There was a feeling last summer was going to be his last hurrah. But what cheeses me off about the GAA is hearing these sweeping statements that once a player hits 30 ‘their legs are gone’.
“That’s such a generic statement, and definitely overused. Certainly some guys are held back, with injury or whatever, but that certainly wasn’t the case with Tom. He was moving as freely this summer as the first day I saw him.
“So the commitment, really, is the big thing, especially if you’ve gone so far, and Tom has won almost everything in the game. Now, did he have the same turn of pace as 2004, or 2005? Well I don’t know for sure. And maybe the game has moved on a little. But his legs weren’t gone. That’s for sure.
“But what we are seeing more and more, at intercounty level, is that the players are either students, or else single. The commitment is massive now, and Tom has been 12 years at the top of the game. That’s a long time alright, and I suppose the heart has to be in it, too. But then I would say he had another excellent year this summer.
“So if the question is whether he still had something to offer Cork I would say yes, certainly. There was nothing to suggest he was slowing down in training.”
Kenny made his senior debut with Cork in 2003, winning back-to-back All-Irelands in 2004 and 2004, and his retirement means Brian Murphy is now the sole survivor of that Cork era. However, news of Kenny’s retirement comes at the same time as Henry Shefflin has committed himself to a 16th season with Kilkenny, even though he will turn 35 next month.