"Conor McKenna is a better addition to Tyrone than what Tadhg Kennelly was to Kerry" 10 months ago

"Conor McKenna is a better addition to Tyrone than what Tadhg Kennelly was to Kerry"

"He stands back from nothing."

After Conor McKenna hit the net for a second time against Mayo - his third goal in his first two senior inter-county games - he looked unbothered for a couple of seconds as he walked back out. Then, he let go.


Two fists clenched, he allowed himself a roar of satisfaction. And he went again as he shouted once more in celebration, this time out towards the rest of the pitch.

As if there was any proof needed by this stage, Conor McKenna is back.

One of the most exciting footballers to come out of Ulster in a while had been homesick at the other end of the world, playing professional sport or not. McKenna isn't just playing with Tyrone now because he's no longer playing professionally - no, he's playing football for Tyrone because that's what he always wanted to do.

And it's actually not a case of this looking like he has never been away, which you'd forgive someone for saying because he's picked up exactly where he left off with football, as a superstar. Instead, it's like he's been developing simultaneously in parallel universes - one where he has grown as a man and a specimen and a competitor in Australia, the other where he just spent the last six years playing football and getting better at it this whole time.

Already, McKenna looks the complete package and that's not premature or overstating it, nor is it putting unnecessary pressure on his shoulders. He's come in to one of the top five teams in Ireland - the 2018 All-Ireland finalists - and he's become a leader for them immediately.

"There are very few elements of his game that he doesn't actually have on the evidence," Colm Parkinson said on The GAA Hour.

"He has the heart of a lion, a great football brain, he can score both goals and points, and he has vision."

Cian Ward went further in explaining why he can't give McKenna enough praise.


In fact, he's the arguably the best of all the AFL players to return after a long stint, in recent history.

"Very often we've seen over the years players who have excelled and gone to play Aussie Rules, they've been of a certain ilk in terms of their athletic make-up," Ward said. "And when you see them back playing Gaelic football, they're running machines but they're not necessarily players with great vision or foot skills because they probably just never had to develop them because their athleticism got them by playing at the level of Gaelic football here [before they went out].

"What impressed me most about McKenna was his vision and there's one pass in particular that stood out where he got the ball around the 45 and stepped inside and it was one of those ones with the wind where he could've just had a go himself. But Peter Harte had peeled in behind the defensive line and McKenna just played this little chipped, disguised in-step pass.

"That's the type of pass that ordinary players don't see. It's only top class forward players that see that and that's what sets him apart from so many players across the country and then you add in the obvious power, athleticism, the fact that he's been a professional athlete for a number of years. He's an awesome presence for Tyrone.

"We've seen these guys come back and give a boost to inter-county teams more often than when they come in but he's a step above that again. He's a better addition to Tyrone than what Tadhg Kennelly would've been when he came back to Kerry and we all know how good he was at that time."

Listen to the full Conor McKenna chat right here from 58:35.