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Kerry manager Fintan O'Connor (right) with Brendan Cummins (file photo)
Kerry manager Fintan O'Connor (right) with Brendan Cummins (file photo)
Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Playing before the Dubs in Croke Park and star forward set for comeback after mumps

Fintan O’Connor’s team will be the warm-up for next Sunday’s Dublin and Meath football tie.
Mar 9th 2020, 7:14 PM 9,615 2

KERRY BOSS FINTAN O’Connor has heaped praise upon the GAA fixture-makers for affording his players and the Antrim hurlers the chance to play in Croke Park next Sunday.

The counties will meet in the Division 2A hurling league final at 1pm, a curtain-raiser to the meeting of Dublin and Kerry in the top tier of the football league.

Five years after Kerry’s senior hurling side last graced Croke Park for the Christy Ring Cup final, they will return to the stadium.

“It’s brilliant for the lads, Croke Park is everyone’s dream. Even for families to be going shouting on the lads. It would have been the aim to try to get to play in Croke Park for a lot of them. It’s lovely for them and for Antrim. We were in the league final last year (against Westmeath in Ennis) and I suppose we were a little bit disappointed that maybe it wasn’t in Croke Park. 

“I did ask about exploring the possibility with Peter Twiss our county board secretary. Look the fact there was a match there already on the Sunday, I thought there was a possibility. We’re delighted. I think it’s a brilliant idea from Croke Park. We’re all critical of everyone all the time and I think whoever came up with the idea of playing it, it’s a great idea. I’m delighted for my Kerry lads but I’d be delighted for any player that mightn’t get the chance to play in Croke Park often.”

It will be a novel occasion for a Kerry hurling team to play in the warm-up game before the current football kingpins Dublin.

“Yeah big time. I suppose the logistics of opening Croke Park and having it available. We understand the kind of crowd we have at a hurling match probably wouldn’t justify the expenditure of opening Croke Park for a standalone fixture. But I think using your head and putting it on with something else is brilliant. If our lads were told they’d to play in Croke Park at seven o’clock in the morning, I’m sure they’d rock up with a smile on their face and I’d say the Antrim lads would be the same.”

Kerry’s promotion hopes were dented with a recent outbreak of mumps in their squad but the players affected look set to recover including star forward Shane Conway.

His exploits in UCC’s Fitzgibbon Cup victories have raised his profile and this will be his first appearance in Croke Park in Kerry colours.

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luke-scanlon-and-michael-harney-tackle-shane-conway Shane Conway starred for UCC in the Fitzgibbon Cup triumph recently. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Hopefully now we nearly have them all back. I know Shane (Conway) was probably the biggest casualty and probably nearly the worst affected out of it. He seems to be on the road to recovery so that’s a huge plus for us. I watched Antrim yesterday and Neal McManus dragged them into it, he was an unbelievable leader. He’s not alone up in Antrim, they have some really class players. You see Killian Doyle from Westmeath yesterday, Marty Kavanagh from Carlow as well. There’s some unbelievable hurlers and it’s lovely for Shane and those lads to get to play in Croke Park on Sunday.”

The Kingdom squad has changed notably since that 2015 Christy Ring Cup success. The chance to make a Croke Park comeback was only secured with yesterday’s remarkable finale in Tullamore with a brace of late Antrim goals salvaging a draw against Offaly.

neal-mcmanus-and-donal-hughes Neal McManus (file photo) in action for the Antrim hurlers

“Huge drama and probably unlikely looking drama the way Offaly were playing. It was hugely disappointing for Offaly and hugely satisfying for us. Antrim were through already and it showed huge pride in what they have in their setup that they stuck at it and kept going. Credit to them for that. It’s lovely to get a bit of the rub of the green and be in Croke Park next Sunday, the next thing now is to try to get a performance and a win.”

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