Athy manager, Emmanuel Kennedy
He played for Athy from a young age right up to senior level; won a county SFC title 2011, went into management soon after that; took charge of the senior side in 2016 and has now managed his club to the senior football championship final of 2018.
Meet Emmanuel Kennedy, much respected GAA coach, manager and a very personable GAA man.
Emmanuel was just gone 18 in 1994 when he first played senior for Athy, finishing in 2012, just short of his 37 birthday.
A member of the successful side of 2011, Emmanuel, explains that he tore his hamstring about four weeks prior to that particular final and, he says himself “that gave an opportunity to Tony Gibbons to take my place, and he hasn't looked back since” adding “but I did manage to come on as a sub in the final, that day we beat Carbury in the final.
So how long are you involved with this particular band of players?
“I managed the senior team from 2016 so I'm in my third year in charge.”
And a great year you are enjoying in 2018?
“Absolutely, a great year; winning the Leader Cup (SFL Division 1) was a great boost but again going back to 2011 it was something Mark Brophy always said, that you have to win a League before you win a championship, now that did not happen for us that year but that was very much on our minds at the time.
“In 2016 we sailed through unbeaten in the League but then totally came off the rails in the final. Confey put in a great performance that day and we found it difficult to recover from that set back but I would like to think that lessons were learned from that experience; the big thing for us in the league (this year) was to get to the final and then being able to grind out a victory, albeit against a somewhat weakened Moorefield team on the day, but it was a great boost for everyone involved to bring home silverware.
“And while I wouldn't say we expected to win that league final, going into any final against a team such as Moorefield , you couldn't have that kind of luxury but we certainly felt at the time we were performing well and the final coincided with the county guys coming back; now they still had not integrated in what we were trying to do at that stage but nevertheless you'd take any win against Moorefield.”
And what were your and your management team's aspirations at the start of this season?
“One of our goals was to win the League, that was achieved and then you obviously start to build on that but you don't set out at the start of the year and say you are aiming to win the championship in October; we very much took the approach, one section at a time; we broke the league up into certain sections; very much driven by goals that were never that far away from us; we weren't looking six months into the future more like six weeks into the future.”
So what has been the difference this year to last?
“This year we made some changes in the background; we have an excellent coach this year in Vinny Walsh and that has been a big boost and from my own situation it has allowed me to step back a bit from the pitch and take a longer view of things instead of being stuck in the middle of drills and that; Brian Cardiff is still there, another excellent coach so I think we have got the balance right in the backroom and the players have brought into what we have been attempting to achieve and have fed off it; but if it doesn't get through to the players it is no good but they are obviously enjoying the training and the experience and that has been a huge positive for us” added Kennedy.
No doubt to get to the final is huge, not just for the club but for the town?
Huge, absolutely huge was the manager's quick response.
“ Again looking back to 2011 we though this was going to be the case every year but that just shows you the quality of teams in Kildare and the quality of Moorefield; once they get a sniff of a final they know how to win it; we haven't learned that and we have to learn that; going into a final as underdogs against Moore-
field , they have shown that they know how to win these type of games and finals but it is a one-off game and anything is possible but we need to give our best.”
With a fair sprinkling of county players can that be as much a plus as a minus?
A huge plus was Emmanuel's quick response.
“When the county players come back to the club and fully invest in what we are trying to do, and despite the county scene being a tough slog, it is not a case of players coming back to the club and sitting on their laurels; they have brought things forward; brought the quality of training forward and the rest of the lads feed off that.”
So what of Moorefield?
“We have been looking at Moorefield (and the other top teams) just as they have been looking at us; you are evaluating everything as things go along but if you focus too much on the opposition you can lose focus on yourself.
“First and foremost we must ensure we get our own game plan right and then deal with the whole challenge that Moorefield will bring to the final; we are up against a team that know how to win have been in loads of finals who are fully aware of what it takes to win and that is something we have to learn but first and foremost we must get our own house in order and that is of paramount importance.”
Obviously enjoying the whole experience from the past few weeks, Emmanuel emphases that just like Moorefield, Athy have put in a tremendous about of work and preparation.
“We have down the work and if we play to our potential; if we get a bit of luck, anything is possible.
“As I said you don't go into a final against Moorefield thinking you are going to win but if things go our way, we have good players that can take advantage of situations we just have to put ourselves in that position where we have that opportunity.”