"I love going training, I love playing. It's 70-80% of what I do since I was a young lad" 1 month ago

"I love going training, I love playing. It's 70-80% of what I do since I was a young lad"

Lockdown 1.0 was grim enough... how about a second one?

Refreshing, peaceful and reinvigorating were the buzz-words first time around. By now, with the October mornings darkening and the evenings closing in, the buzz has well and truly worn away. There's only so much finding oneself a single person can do.

Tony Kelly remembers the skills challenges, he remembers the home-gymming and the road-running and this monk-type lifestyle he says, is not something he'd fancy again.

"Over the lockdown you'd have yourself nearly driven mad trying to keep on top of things, running the roads and that," he says at the launch of Littlewoods Style meets Substance campaign.

"You'd wonder were you doing enough to keep yourself fit. Often the opposite can happen, you can probably do too much!"

That's why, on the eve of lockdown 2.0, Tony Kelly is happy out with his saving grace. His lifeline is the inter-county championship and the Clare hurler is 100% keen on playing the game which he says makes up 70 to 80% of his life.

"Obviously there are concerns but from a personal point of view, I'm happy enough to play away."

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"Everyone should respect anyone's decision if they didn't want to play but from a personal point of view, I do want to play myself. I love going training, I love playing. It's 70-80% of what I do since I was a young lad. I'm just fortunate now that it is going ahead.

"It is mighty (to be back training,) anybody that is playing it, you just love the game, you love going out training, you love getting out playing. You love the competitive and physical aspect of it and it has just been a lease of life. The club when it came back in the summer was probably even more of a release because it was such a lockdown for a sustained period of time. From my own point of view it would have been a shame to have missed out on a year, to write off a year..."

Kelly is single-minded and driven, something which could be attributed to the place he grew up in.

"I’d probably put it down to hard work at underage," he says of Ballyea's surge to prominence in the club hurling sphere.

"We were  fortunate enough that we came at underage with two or three good age-groups together. The likes of Jack Browne, Niall Deasy, Paul Flanagan and you’re throwing in the footballers then, Gary Brennan - an absolutely outstanding footballer and I think equally as good a hurler. His brother Cillian is fantastic as well. It’s kind of a blend. We’re kind of lucky I suppose that we have inter-county hurlers and footballers and then we’ve the club players who really buy into it. We’ve lots of excellent hurlers as well but we’re tough enough as well, there are a few lads there with complete never say die attitudes. We’re a small place but hurling is number one and lads just love pucking, getting out there enjoying themselves and going hurling..."

On Sunday, it all gets real as the Banner face Limerick in the Munster Championship. It's something Tony Kelly is counting the days down to, and speaking as a hurling follower, he's certainly not the only one.

"We're in close proximity to each other. It's been billed as a derby match for us. We're expecting nothing less than a massive battle. We're under no illusions that we're probably up against it, in terms of past performances. But every game is different.

"As far as I know, we’re driving individually. It’s about an hour of a spin. Our gameplan is to work hard and play smart and see what happens on Sunday."

 

Clare Hurler Tony Kelly joined All Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Sponsor Littlewoods Ireland to launch their new ‘Style Meets Substance’ campaign. Returning for the 4th year running as a top-tier sponsor, Littlewoods Ireland’s ‘Style Meets Substance’ campaign is a celebration of hurling people, their individuality, their love for the game and the joy of Championship.