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The Pull Of Home Is Still Strong With Conor Mc Kenna

Tuesday 14.07.2020
Team Talk Mag
Latest News


A couple of weeks ago Conor McKenna’s world appeared to be upside down. The former Tyrone underage star was listed to play his first game of the season in the AFL for Essendon when he seemed to test positive for Covid 19.

The Eglish man, who has made no secret of the fact that he struggles with home sickness, was forced to endure a fortnight of self isolation despite the fact that further tests proved negative.  

“I still now really don’t know what happened to be honest,” admits Conor.

“On the Friday the test came up a false positive, whatever that means, so I had to get retested again on the Saturday and that came up positive. I then got retested again on the Tuesday and that came up negative.

I got bloods done and that came up that I maybe had it six weeks before that so there still is no real clarity on it, they are not sure if I had it ten weeks ago when I was in Ireland or three weeks ago but I was another ten days stuck in a room on my own.

I felt 100% and that was the biggest shock as I was due to play my first game this year. The day before a game you go for a bit of a jog about and I went in but before I started training the Doctor came over and said that I had to go for a retest. Even the week after that I never had any symptoms so it really didn’t affect me in any way physically.”

Conor pays a huge tribute to the support that his club Essendon have given him while he also praises the Irish community both at home and abroad.

“My club have been very supportive while I was in quarantine and I can’t thank them enough,” he said.

“The Irish Embassy sent me a wee care package of Irish treats as did Taste Ireland. Even the GPA got in contact with me to see could they help me in anyway. It really is unbelievable the support that you get from the Irish community on the other side of the world.”

McKenna played his first competitive game last weekend after being given the all clear to return but ironically he picked up an injury.

“It was good to play my first game of the season at the weekend,” said Conor.

“We beat North Melbourne by fourteen points and that leaves us joint top of the table so we are going pretty well. Unfortunately during the game I broke by finger so that will leave me out for a week or so. I will get surgery on it on Tuesday or Wednesday and we will see what happens after that.

The stop start nature of the season definitely didn’t help when you are preparing for a new season but from my point of view it worked out well as I was struggling with home sickness and I have been able to get home twice this year already.

I was home for ten weeks which I was happy to do to be honest. I really got stuck into the training back home doing cycling and gym sessions in the house and I probably returned to Australia with better fitness than when I came home as I wasn’t sure were my head was at that stage.

I was home for four weeks in February but I was always going back out again. I wanted to come home and talk to Mum and Dad and the family. I talk about it every year, home sickness is not something that I really shy away from, and at the end of each season I make my decision whether to go back or not, if it’s worth my while.

I will do the same thing at the end of this season, October time, make my decision and come Christmas I will have decided whether I want to go back out again or not and it will probably just come down to that week what I decide to do”.

Conor has never made any secret of his desire to one day play for Tyrone seniors and that has only been fuelled by the Red Hands reaching the All Ireland Final two years ago.

“I went to the All Ireland Final in 2018 and it was one of the hardest things that I had to do, to sit there and watch Tyrone playing,” he admitted.

“In the first ten or fifteen minutes when they were winning by four or five points it was unbelievable to see the way that they were going but then it started to set in that there was a chance that they were going to win it and I wasn’t going to be playing which would have been heartbreaking for me.

I suppose that’s the decision that I have made and I have had to live with that, I lost out on an All Ireland U21 medal in 2015 as well. I have made sacrifices but in the near future I want to come home and play for Eglish and get onto the Tyrone panel if I can.”

When he does return one day to play GAA he will come back to a game that this season introduced the forward mark, something that is used in the AFL, but a new rule that Conor doesn’t like

“I don’t understand it, I don’t really like it (forward mark), it feels that it’s (GAA) trying to morph its way into AFL which I really hope it doesn’t,” he said.

“I love the way the GAA game was when I played it. I like the mark for the kick out but I don’t like the forward mark. It could boil down to players just hoofing a high ball in and while that may be good for high catching I just don’t know why it’s coming into the game.  

It’s the same over here to be honest. When I first came here I spent twelve months learning the game and the next year you came back it seemed like a whole new game.

I don’t know who it is, they feel that they have to change stuff, they are continuously trying to change the game to make it better when it should be a case if it’s not broken don’t fix it. If the game is going well let it keep flowing and if something urgent does come up make a change but that mindset of changing things for the sake of it I just don’t agree with it.”

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