You were only 17 when you moved to Australia to play AFL back in 1999. Was it a difficult time?
Yeah, it was. I hadn’t travelled at all, I’d never left Ireland. I lived in a small country town with 3,000 people and next thing I know I’m in Sydney, with five-and-a-half million people, at 17. It was a big move, yeah. It was very exciting at the time. It was a big thrill for me.

Was it ever overwhelming for you?
Yeah, there was a few times. I got homesick quite a bit in my first year. There were a lot of nights when I can remember crying in bed. It did get overwhelming, because of the cultural differences as well. There are a lot of similarities between Irish and Australians – they’re so relaxed. But there are still a lot of different things. I had to get used to the lingo too, you know.

After nine years in Australia, have you picked up many Aussie-isms?
Haha. Yeah, “sweet” – at home obviously you’d say “grand”. There’s a lot of slang I had to get used to. “Garden hose” is nose… There’s still quite a few that catch me. But back then I didn’t have any idea. I’d go, “what the eff are you talking about boys?”

Judging by the response of the girls in our office when I said I’d be talking to you, you must get a lot of fanmail from the ladies…
Haha. I suppose that accent works for me that way. I don’t think I’m the best looking bloke in the world, but I’ll use my accent as an asset, it’s something I have over my teammates. Fanmail? I get a bit. 

Ever been sent anything weird; any underwear…?
I have in the past, yeah. I’ve had a few little… well, I wouldn’t call them stalkers, but close
enough, I suppose, close enough. Nothing I couldn’t deal with, thank God.

How do you cope with the setbacks and boredom that injury brings?
I’ve been very lucky, up till the last two years, when I’ve had a lot of injuries. That’s part of football. But I’ve had enough of it now, to tell you the truth.

I’ve read your planning to go back to County Kerry…
That’s still the plan. I’ve got this season and the season next year, so I’ll wait and decide what to do at the end of my contract. I won’t rush into anything yet, but at the moment that’s the plan. 

Is it still your dream to win an All Ireland with Kerry?
It sure is. My dad did it five times and my brother’s done it three times, so I’ve got a bit of catching up to do.

I’ve also read you’re against the idea of Gaelic football turning professional; it might ruin the spirit of the game…
Yeah, definitely. I don’t think it’s big enough to cope with a professional game. It hasn’t got the money of a country like Australia. It’s very good at home, because it’s very local – you play for your country, or your village, or your parish. They’ve very proud people. Whereas, professional games these days are very commercial.

Your father passed away in 2006. Was it a tough time for you, being on the other side of the world?
Probably the hardest thing I ever did was making the decision to come back out here. I took a long, long time. I stayed at home for about three months. I “ummed” and “ahhed” about coming back out here. The hardest thing I ever did was leaving my mum at the airport that time when I came back out. Being so far away from home it doesn’t help. You always think you’re close to home, but when something like that happens and you want to get home, it wakens you up to how far away you are.

How often do you get back home to Ireland at the moment?
I’ve got a great arrangement now with the club. They let me home for around three months, whereas most players only have the seven-eight weeks off. The boss just says, “stay at homewith your family”. I always come back in good shape, which is probably a good thing because if I didn’t, they wouldn’t let me do it. Give and take, you know.

Have you seen much of Oz?
Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of it – most of it. I’ve been up the coast to Airlie Beach, Port Stephens,Whitsundays, Hayman Island, Hamilton Island, Darwin… I haven’t been to Tassie – it’s probably too much like home. The east coast is just fantastic, an experience I don’t think I’ll ever forget. I did it with a couple of mates and it was just party time. There was so much on, so much booze and so much partying.

Lastly, have you ever got jiggy with it in a dorm bed?
Yes I have, haha.

We caught up with Tadhg Kennelly at the opening of the first independent Backpacker Campervans branch at 191-201 William Street, Sydney.