Tony Kelly keen to replicate Clare’s past glories
“We grew up watching videos and listening about Brian Lohan and Colin Lynch and all them lads”
Clare’sTony Kelly: Saturday will be his fifth All-Ireland final. Photograph: Inpho
Tony Kelly really should have a nickname by now. Something to describe the way he flits in and out of the play, making a lasting contribution with each stroke.
Like a sparrow. Alas, that was taken during the previous Banner surge against hurling hierarchy. Ger O’Loughlin owns the rights.
Kelly is more bird of prey. Such is the teenager’s ruthless nature, his killer instinct, his effortless looking style.
By all accounts Cork’s Brian Murphy wrapped him up in the Munster championship duel but on September 8th Kelly whipped over three points and added plenty of subtle assists to Clare’s final tally of 0-25 with his rapid hurling mind.
The concern was that Murphy’s experience might be brought to bear or that Kelly’s exposure to the occasion of an All-Ireland final would make him play inside himself. It tends to happen to many a virgin All-Ireland finalists.
The game comes and goes before anything can be done about it. Ask Dublin and football’s bright young thing, Jack McCaffrey.
“Where would you rather be on a Sunday evening?” Kelly wondered aloud recently. “It is the best place to be in the world. Eighty something thousand people watching you play hurling, you’d play in them every week if you could.”
Saturday will be his fifth All-Ireland final (the 2010 minor decider, two under-21s and the drawn game).
“Once the game starts it is like any hurling game. The crowd goes away. You don’t hear them. It’s just great that amateur sport can create such an occasion like that.”
After the All-Ireland under-21 hurling final in Thurles, Kelly was asked about all the Clare children witnessing first-hand all this gathering of silverware.
He was asked about a time when he was one of them.
“We are setting examples for all the young lads who come to watch us. We grew up watching videos and listening about Brian Lohan and Colin Lynch and all them lads.”
Videos and stories! In 1997 Kelly was three years old.
“Hopefully we can replicate what they’ve done and give a boost to the young lads that hurling in Clare is here to stay for the next few years.”
He wears number 11 at the moment, starts there but wanders into midfield when the moment demands it.
“Ah, midfield or in the forwards, I don’t really mind. I played in the backs last year. I’ve played everywhere but in goal.
“Once I’m on there I’m happy out.”
Young hurler of the year? Podge Collins may have something to say about that still. Coolest hurler of the year. Definitely the favourite.