Wicklow’s rock is ready to roll
Kennedy confident of victory
WICKLOW hurling goalkeeper, Ted Kennedy, has had the pleasure of knowing the very best of times with his county, but he has also endured the horror of living through the worst of times and, as the Garden County prepare for their Christy Ring battle with Kildare this weekend, the Carnew man is fully aware that the present situation is up there with the best of them.
The Kennedy name is synonymous with hurling in Carnew and Wicklow. Ted is the last line of defence for the county and for Carnew, while brother Liam's towering frame will be found in the half back line of both squads as well.
Other brother Thomas, a.k.a 'Pheasant', is also well known for his hurling skills and can be found at midfield for the club's Senior footballers.
The most obvious thing to say about Ted Kennedy, besides the fact that he's an excellent goalkeeper, is that he's a pure gentleman. A tough looking demeanour belies a gentle nature beneath and this man is pure hurling, all the way down to his toes.
“Started playing when I went to school in Clonegal I suppose, I've been playing it forever really,” said the 31-yearold carpenter. “Started playing for Carnew at under-14, then played all the way up through the grades for the club and for the county. Played at corner forward when we won the All-Ireland B final, I think I scored 1-03 or 2-03 or something like that,” he added casually.
It's interesting to note his positioning at the opposite end of the field in those early days and we wondered how he had made the progression back down the field to where he now struts his stuff, on the goal line.
“Well I started playing there for Carnew, lads retired and we had no goalie so they put me in there because I could catch the ball. As well as that, I started slowing down as well, I started slowing down at a young age to be honest,” he jokes.
Ted Kennedy is a formidable figure on the goal line for his club or county and was missed during a two-year period where he was unable to commit to the cause. But, he's back now, and ready for anything.
“I just couldn't commit for two years and I went off to play golf and I won the Captain's Prize down in Collattin Golf Club and the matchplay in the foursomes and I was beaten in the final of the singles so I enjoyed that. I was at 15 (handicap) and now I'm a seven,” he explained.
But the draw of the hurling is a hard one to resist for someone who's as passionate about the sport as Ted Kennedy.
“I started back with them just before Christmas and it's been brilliant from the start. I was seriously out of the shape then but Robert Doyle is the trainer this year and he only came in this year but he's very good so I've got my place back and it's good now,” he said.
Kennedy is obviously very familiar with Wicklow manager Casey O'Brien. He describes the Wicklow Town man as “very calm in the dressing room”, and someone who “tells it as he sees it”.
“Listen, he played for years and he has transformed hurling in the county. I was playing when Titch Phelan was over the team and that was frightening how bad things got that year. I remember going to play Westmeath in a relegation final and we barely had a team. We went down to Division 3B or something and we were playing the likes of Tyrone and them lads. We dispatched them fairly handy and got back up but Casey got the hurling people in the county back together and with Brian Gleeson and Gerry Murray, and Emmet O'Sullivan now, he got us all pushing the one way to improve Wicklow hurling. You can see it in the team, there's a nice blend of youth and experience,” said Ted.
The league victory against Down was a sweet one and Ted was excellent in the final played in Navan. The Carnew man said the squad were confident going into the clash despite going down to defeat in Ballycran earlier in the league.
“We were confident going into the final. They beat us up in Ballycran but the sod was deplorable up there. They had to cut the grass with a lawnmower around the edges so we could see the lines of the pitch. You couldn't see the ball with the length of the grass. So I said coming home that day that when we get them lads to a proper pitch we'll take care of them boys. And that day in Navan, before the game, both teams were warming up on the pitch outside and a shower of rain came and they ran inside and when the rain passed they came back out and I said to the lads “we have these lads bet”.
On Saturday Ted will prowl the goal line in Newbridge as Wicklow take on Kildare in the opening clash of the 2014 Christy Ring Cup. With the Lilywhites suffering relegation the Carnew man is under no illusions about the difficulties of the game ahead but he feels the Wicklow team owe Kildare a little something after last year's semi-final defeat in Arklow.
“We're going well, obviously we're without Christy Moorehouse who's suspended for the first round but we're going very well in training, it's all sharp stuff. Kildare got relegated so we're expecting them to be moving fairly well and that they're going to be out to prove something but this year Meath bet us in the Kehoe Cup and we bet them in the league. Down bet us in Ballycran and we bet them in the final. And Kildare bet us last year so that's going to be put right,” said Ted.
Wicklow have come hurtfully close to Christy Ring success over recent years with two final appearances. What, in Ted Kennedy's opinion, would a win in the competition mean for the Garden County?
“It would mean everything,” he said simply. “It would mean that the hierarchy would have to stand up and take notice. I mean, Casey gets huge respect from us, and likewise, we get it from him, but you'd like to see that same respect come for us from the hierarchy in this county,” he added.
Wicklow take on Kildare this Saturday in Newbridge in the Christy Ring Cup. It's a healthy looking Wicklow side littered with lots of new and talented hurlers and backboned by men who have soldiered though the good times and the, as Ted Kennedy described it, “frightening” times.
But all that's changed now. The world is a different place. Casey O'Brien is working his magic. Wicklow hurling is on the up and Ted Kennedy is going to do his damnedest to keep it that way, to keep it honest, to keep it real, to keep it true. Anything else would be against the man's nature. Quick Questions Best Sporting Achievement - First Senor hurling championship with Carnew, the All-Ireland B and winning the Captain's Prize in Coollattin Golf Club. Other hobbies - I play a bit of darts. Funniest Wicklow team mate - Ronan Keddy, has to be, it's his personality, and he's always just womacing along.
Toughest Wicklow team mate - Well I wouldn't like to be marking Eugene Dunne, I can tell you that. He'd be a hard little man now.
Best dressed Wicklow team mate - Has to be Luke Maloney from Bray. He could come to training in a pair of blue suede shoes.
Wicklow’s Ted Kennedy in action against Down in the Division 2B league final in Navan.