Mark Kehoe: 'It was a great year'
By Cian O’Connell
Mark Kehoe’s patience was rewarded in 2019. By the end of the Championship campaign Kehoe was delivering important contributions for Tipperary at Croke Park.
That the journey ended with two impressive cameo appearances as a substitute in the All Ireland sem-final and decider merely added to the sense of satisfaction.
The promise demonstrated during UCC’s Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup triumph in the spring suggested Kehoe had the talent to make an impact under Liam Sheedy’s guidance.
“It was a great year, a really enjoyable year,” Kehoe admits. “It got off to a good start with the Fitzgibbon earlier on in the year.
“There were ups and downs along the way with the Munster Championship and everything. It was great to get the All Ireland win, they are memories I will cherish forever. It was a great experience.”
Unsurprisingly Kehoe, who featured in the Co-op Superstores Munster Hurling League encounter against Clare on Sunday, is delighted to be back getting ready for the 2020 Allianz Hurling League and Championship with Tipperary.
“Definitely, coming up to Christmas it is good to get a game or two back into the legs, to get a flush out after the year we've had,” Kehoe says.
“We've had a little break now and we are ready to get going with fellas in the gym and back on the field. We are looking forward to the season ahead.”
These are hugely encouraging times for Tipperary, who have also collected All Ireland Under 21 and 20 titles in the past 16 months.
“Tipp's underage success has been great, especially in recent years,” Kehoe states. “You just need to see how many young players are involved now, beforehand you wouldn't see that with Tipperary teams at all.
“You might have to wait two or three years after Under 21 to get your chance. They are giving the young players a right chance, it is up to us to be able to put our hand up, to help the team as much as possible.
“We learn from the experienced players too, it is great to see them every night in training, to see the commitment they give and how hard they push themselves. It can only benefit us going forward.”
Kehoe enjoys being involved with UCC and Tipperary stressing the common sense approach adopted by the respective coaching teams.
“Sometimes when you are trying to give so much to each team you try to push yourself as much as you can,” Kehoe replies.
“The management with the Fitzgibbon are great, they give you the time for inter-county. Liam and the lads with Tipp they give you time for the Fitzgibbon too.
“They recognise the importance of the Fitzgibbon, playing in the competition and what standard it is. If you are performing with the college you will get your chance at inter-county. That is a great thing to have.”
How Kehoe produced for UCC in the Fitzgibbon Cup mattered deeply for his development. “It gave me exposure and exposure to players that I wouldn't have played against at club or even underage,” Kehoe remarks.
“The players you play against nearly everyone is playing senior inter-county hurling. It is a really great standard, a great competition with an atmosphere around it.
“With UCC there will be a small bit of pressure, but it is good pressure with high expectations. It is a great competition to play in.”
So Kehoe relished being part of Tipperary’s successful senior adventure. The Liam MacCarthy Cup was a most welcome visitor to the Kilsheelan-Kilcash club. Tom Larkin won an All Ireland with Tipp in 1958 so Kehoe is thrilled to be wearing the blue and gold.
“It is great, to bring the All Ireland back to Kilsheelan, to see what it means to the people,” Kehoe responds. “I think there is only one other person with the medal in the club so it gave me great pride to bring it back there. Even for South Tipp there isn't an awful lot, you have a lot from Mid and North Tipp. To be able to bring it back there brought a great sense of pride.”
Football and hurling are both on the agenda in Kilsheelan-Kilcash. “It would be nearly 50-50 down the south,” Kehoe reflects.
“Last year we placed a lot of emphasis on the hurling, we have a lot of young players coming through. We got to the semi-finals of the Intermediate in hurling, we gave a real push in that.
“We are trying to push ourselves as hard as we can, we have a lot of young players coming through. It is important to have a balance, you see clubs like Loughmore, how they are able to compete in both. It definitely can be done.”