Meagher Cup final a shot at redemption for Lancashire's Kenny
By Michael Devlin
Edmond Kenny travelled the world over before he settled in Lancashire.
The Wexford native left Ireland in 2010 to live first in the UK, then Australia, and then back to the UK. He hurled with London for several seasons, while also turning out for his adopted club Robert Emmets in an All-Ireland Intermediate semi-final.
He then took his talents north to Manchester and has become a key attacker for a Lancashire side are vying to get their hands on the Lory Meagher Cup this weekend after defeat in last year’s final.
“I remember last year when we got to the final, I remember someone saying it wasn’t the first Lancashire team to play in Croke Park, that was back in 1918 or something along those lines, though I don’t know the full history of it,” says Kenny.
“The GAA in Lancashire is fairly strong and spread out across such a big area there. We’ve got GAA clubs in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, and Newcastle, so you’re talking the whole north of England there. You’ve obviously got Warwickshire and London, but when you come out of north of Warwickshire, Lancashire covers that whole northern region.
“I lived in London for several years, and the GAA is massive there. I suppose one thing you say in London is that they are spoilt for choice down there with pitches and all, and you don’t have that luxury in north England.
“We play our home games in Old Bedians in Manchester. It’s a tight small pitch, and I personally don’t really enjoy playing there, I’d prefer a bit more of open space. Out here on Saturday we will have more freedom.”
The Lancashire team hail from all over, a patchwork of hurlers from Antrim to Cork and most places in between. They all assemble for a common cause, and the well-travelled Kenny says it’s testament to the power of the GAA overseas that exiles can come together not just to compete on the field of play, but also to socially link into the Irish community of their new homes.
“The great thing about it is that it is great to have the GAA to fall back on. It’s brilliant, I suppose, from every point of view, not just from friends and social. There’s a lot to be said just for all the support you can receive and all those connections overseas. Whether it be work, whether it be different things like that, mean a lot.
“Like when we went to Sydney in 2013, myself and my partner, she wouldn’t have known many people, but she played ladies football, so automatically you have a bond with the team and any amount of friends. So that’s the great thing about the GAA overseas.
“Thankfully, anywhere we have been, we’ve always had GAA teams. I suppose the thing about the UK and in Lancashire that you have the opportunity to get to an All-Ireland final and to play at Croke Park. The reality is a lot of us from different counties would not have played at senior county level and wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity. It’s brilliant, I suppose that the opportunity comes from playing with Warwickshire, London, or Lancashire.”
In last year’s Lory Meagher Cup final defeat to Sligo, Kenny and Cork native Ronan Crowley were outstanding in the full forward line for Lancashire, but their combined total of 2-17 still wasn’t enough a last-gasp goal left them with an agonising one-point defeat.
Kenny’s individual haul of 1-8 all came from play, but the Wexford man revealed that he wasn’t always a prolific full forward.
“I had a few trials with the Wexford minors back in 2003 or ’04, I was actually a goalkeeper back then, and I played in goal for the club for a good few years,” he revealed. “I didn’t make it at minor level, and I didn’t get many more opportunities after that.
“To be honest, I played in goal but it would have never been my favourite position, but I got on with it. We won intermediate with the club at home back in 2009, and I was in goal for a couple of years after. When I went to Australia, I decided enough was enough. I said, ‘here’s no more talk of being a goalkeeper!’ I decided I’ll try and get a place out in the field with a little more freedom.
“Look, there’s a lot to be said for goal keepers. It’s an awful position. It’s a very tough position to play in. When there is a mistake, it will always be remembered. Over the last couple of years especially, it has changed a lot in the sense that the goalkeeper is such an important part of the team. Whereas ten years ago, it was just drive the ball long and hard.
That killer Kevin Gilmartin goal for Sligo in final moments of last year’s final still rankles for Kenny, and he insists his side are eager to make amends this Saturday against Leitrim, a game that is expected to be just as nip and tuck as the 2018 edition.
“We definitely felt last year after the game that we didn’t finish it out, we leaked couple of soft goals. We were winning by two points, coming into the 69th minute and they got a goal to get back out a point in front. Look, we were very disappointed after it. But we regrouped in January, and to be fair lads wanted to right the wrongs from last year.
“Against Leitrim on Saturday, there have been some very, very close battles between us this year and last year in the league final – we went into extra time up in Carrick-On-Shannon.
“There has only ever been a puck of a ball between the two of us. It will come down to the wire on Saturday no doubt.”