TADHG Kennelly has returned as development coach for his beloved Sydney Swans, the team with which he won a Premiership in 2005.
“It’s great to be back. It’s five years I’ve been away from the club,” Kennelly told Irish Echo.
“It’s a bit familiar, yet foreign also. “I’ve had five years away from the club and different experiences in my own life. Coming back in as a coach and not a player is obviously a bit different but the very fabric of the football club hasn’t changed as far as how we approach the game and how strong of a cultural club it is.
“It’s different yet similar.” Kennelly is the only sportsman to have won both an AFL Premiership and All-Ireland football championship. He played his entire AFL career with Sydney Swans, only taking a break from his decade-long career to achieve his other ambition with Kerry.
The son of All-Ireland winner Tim Kennelly, a young Tadhg shone at Gaelic football as well as soccer having a brief stint at Blackburn Rovers’ youth team. In 1999, he joined Sydney Swans as a Rookie, making his senior debut in 2001. He was the first Irishman to win an AFL Premiership in 2005, playing all 26 games in a victorious campaign. He was also a losing finalist in 2006 when Swans lost by a single point.
Kennelly had expressed his desire to return home and win an All-Ireland with Kerry, something he achieved in 2009, playing in the Kingdom’s triumphant campaign, beating Cork in the final.
Kennelly would then return to Swans for a further two years, playing his final game in September 2011, then working in development roles including as the AFL’s International Talent Co-ordinator which saw him bring talent from Ireland.
“It was great while I was doing it, giving opportunities to young men all over the world: Ireland, US, New Zealand. Now I’m all about the Sydney Swans and trying to help the young fellas step up and make it into senior football.
“I’ll keep an eye on it from a distance because that’s who I am. I’m an international footballer at the end of the day. I came from the other side of the world. Of course I’m always going to have a soft spot for that.
” Colin O’Riordan of Tipperary is one Irish player in the Sydney ranks that Tadhg will be working with and helping to reach that next step. “I know if I was a third-year footballer and I had someone at the club from very much the same background as myself as a coach, I would be leaning on them.
“The minute he came out here, I was all about him and helping him to settle in. Now obviously I’m able to work with him day to day and help his football from a technical point of view.
“We’ll be trying to get him up to speed as quick as we can to get him into senior selection,” he added.
Kennelly, who has just become a father for the third time, was one of the first AFL players to represent Ireland in International Rules, playing in six Tests.