Conor McKenna dreams of playing for Tyrone again
By John Harrington
Former Tyrone minor footballer Conor McKenna is a rising star in the Australian Football League, but still has ambitions of playing senior inter-county football with his native county.
The 21-year-old is settled in Australia for now after signing a new four-year deal with Essendon, but hasn't turned his back on gaelic football for good.
He dreams of returning home some day and playing for the Tyrone senior footballers in the same way that Tadhg Kennelly did with Kerry after a long stint in Australia with the Sydney Swans.
“Oh definitely,” said McKenna yesterday at the announcement of EirGrid as official sponsor of the Ireland International Rules team.
“It's always one that hopefully I come home at some stage and represent my club, my county. At the minute, I'm signed for those four years so I'm there for four years anyway.
“In four years I'm going to be 25, I'm a young fella. He [Tadhg Kennelly] came home he was 27 or 28; so there's plenty of time and if it's an option, I'll take it.”
McKenna has become a real crowd favourite at Essendon thanks to his ability to quickly turn defence into attack with his surging runs from deep.
His initial three-year contract ran out this year, but Essendon showed their faith in him by quickly tying him down to a new long-term dea.
“Another four years,” said McKenna. “It’s good to have clarity and know where you’re going to be for the next four years rather than have it up in the air.
“I didn’t really worry too much about it. I have an agent so I just told him, ‘you to sort it out and I’ll try to play the best football that I can’.
“I was happy to stay at Essendon. It came to mid-year and they said they were going to offer me a contract and I said to leave it until the end of the year and we’d sort it out after.
“We finished on the Saturday and I signed on a Monday. I hadn’t talked to any other clubs.”
Ireland International Rules manager, Joe Kernan, said yesterday that McKenna will be part of his 23-man squad for the upcoming two-match series against Australia in November.
McKenna is excited by the prospect, and admits it will mean all the more because the International Rules Series Cup is named after his fellow Eglish club-man, Cormac McAnallen.
“Yeah, It makes it more special,” said McKenna. “He was a club-man of mine and it was very sad what happened him. He was a massive role-model for most young boys in Ireland, and especially for myself, I really looked up to him.
“It would be unbelievable to go there and play and represent him as well and hopefully win the Cup for him.”