'I hadn't really much of an interest in the GAA' - Cork star on his recent rise to fame

Peter Kelleher admits that he didn’t have much of an interest when Cork last won an EirGrid All-Ireland U21 football title.

Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

PETER KELLEHER HAS only sketchy memories of Cork’s last victory in an EirGrid All-Ireland U21 football final to call upon.

The 20-year-old Kilmichael player admitted after Saturday’s semi-final victory over Monaghan that he didn’t really have much of an interest in the GAA when the Rebels scored a 1-13 to 2-9 victory over Down seven years ago.

“I was about 14 years of age and hadn’t really much of an interest in GAA,” revealed Kelleher, who scored a crucial goal against Monaghan in Tullamore on Saturday. 

“2009, I’ve come across a lot of their players, Colm O’Driscoll scored a late on goal I’m sure, he still talks about it!”

And well he might, as O’Driscoll’s injury-time effort snatched victory for Cork.

“Aidan Walsh was on the team, they were great players,” Kelleher continued.

“Other than that, they beat Down I think, I wouldn’t know too much about the game.”

Colm O'Driscoll scores a goal Colm O'Driscoll pounces for the winning goal against Down in 2009. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

In the years that followed, Kelleher’s interest in Gaelic Games grew to such an extent that he was one of the shining lights to emerge from Cork’s Allianz Football League Division 1 campaign this year.

Relegation was tough to take for Cork but Kelleher stepped up to the senior mantle with ease and one of the highlights of his season was scoring a goal against Dublin at Croke Park.

“I kind of got interested playing with De La Salle College, Macroom, played a few Corn Uí Mhuirí finals, lost out of course!” Kelleher remembers.

But that kicked on my interest, played a bit of minor football with the county. Since then I haven’t looked back. It’s great to be here, it’s been 2013 since they were last in a final (U21), 2009 since they won.

“I was at the 2010 All-Ireland (senior) football final, that was a great day. Since then, I haven’t looked back, played a small bit of hurling in the middle.”

Kelleher admits that a lot’s happened this year for him, in a positive sense.

“I spent a bit of time under Brian Cuthbert last year with the senior footballers, helped me along brilliantly. You’re up to the pace, training with the good players constantly.

“It’s just onwards and upwards from there. At the start of this year, (I) made a slight breakthrough anyway for some few games.

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Brian Cuthbert Former Cork senior football team manager Brian Cuthbert. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“It was a disappointing League overall, ended up getting relegated but there were some great performances to be taken from it, Monaghan game at home, Mayo at home.

“We went up to Dublin after having a bad loss to Roscommon. It was a great experience and it’s helping me in these games, you’re up to the pace.”

And he acknowledged that progressing to an EirGrid All-Ireland U21 decider has helped to soothe the pain of relegation with the seniors.

“Absolutely. To turn over Kerry in their own back yard (in the Munster U21 final) was great, you’d be absolutely hopping after that and you’re carrying it into every game from there.

“For the next two weeks now it’s recovery. We’ll probably play a challenge match in the middle and drive on.”

Cork will play Mayo on 30 April in the EirGrid All-Ireland U21 football final.

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