January 01, 2001
John Kennedy's senior intercounty career was prematurely cut short by serious knee problems but he was fortunate in the sense that his time in the Premier County colours coincided with two All-Ireland successes. Hogan Stand talks to him about his days in the blue and gold jersey.
Former Tipperary star John Kennedy would be easily capable of writing a thesis on sports injuries and the effects thereafter on a body's psychological well-being. In short the Clonoulty-Rossmore clubman was put through the mill in his run-ins with the treatment table throughout his career.
Cruciate ligament damage rose its ugly head in 1991, in a first round championship success over Limerick. He ploughed the loneliest furrow of all that summer, sidelined and of no use to anyone in hurling. Tipperary progressed to claim the Liam McCarthy that September.
John's rehabilitation took time, but his patience was rewarded twelve months later when he returned to the Premier County set-up, in a League game against Down. However, it was shortlived and he renewed acquaintance with the surgeons scalpel a couple of months later after damaging the cruciate ligament in his other knee in a club game against Sean Treacys. His burgeoning county career finished at the age of 26.
"I miss hurling more now than I did back then," remarked John. "There was a lot of things outside of hurling happening at that time which meant it didn't matter to me so much then as it does now. But, I had some good years with the county team and they were great times."
Although John's days in the county jersey were numbered at the beginning of the last decade he continued to line out with his club up until 1997 and brought the curtain down on his playing days with a second SHC souvenir. The first arrived in 1989 when Clonoulty-Rossmore got the better of Holycross in the county decider.
"The first county championship win was the highlight of my hurling career. It was a great feeling to win the big one with the players I had grown up with and I was picked to captain Tipperary the following year as a result of the club's win."
That wasn't the first time that John had been chosen to skipper a county side. He captained the Tipperary minor team to All-Ireland glory in 1982 when they got the better of a Galway team which included Pete Finnerty, Tom Helebert, Ger McInerney and Anthony Cunningham amongst its ranks.
He played in three All-Ireland U21 finals and it was most definitely a case of third time lucky. Galway and Kilkenny edged Tipp out in the 1983 and '84 deciders respectively but they finally got their hands on the cup in 1985 when getting the better of the Cats.
John's performances with the county minors and U21s attracted the attention of 'Babs' Keating and his selectors and he made his senior debut against Kilkenny in a challenge match at Cashel in 1987.
Two years later he was left-half-back on the Tipperary team which garnered All-Ireland honours at the expense of that year's surprise packets, Antrim.
"I was very lucky to have been playing that day. I broke a couple of my fingers in the 1st championship game against Limerick and lost my place to Paul Delaney. I played a part as a sub in all the games up to the final but it was difficult to break into a winning team.
"I found myself in the starting XV for the final because of the controversy which surrounded Paul Delaney and Tony Keady of Galway playing in America."
The occasion itself though was one that John will long remember. "Antrim played exceptionally well to beat Offaly in their semi-final and we had a humdinger of a game against Galway in our semi'. It certainly was a novel final.
"Everyone thought the result was a foregone conclusion but we kept our heads right and took nothing for granted. On the day Antrim were probably disappointed with their display and we had a facile win but it was a memorable one nonetheless. I had never seen Tipperary win an All-Ireland before and it was a long time coming."
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