Sydney supported far and wide

Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 03:32 am ACST

Contributed by: Brett Northey

With the Sydney Swans taking on the West Coast Eagles in the 2005 AFL Grand Final, it's quite possible that the Swans will be the "most supported" team in Australian football history. Naturally they'll have the large New South Wales support base, and other states such as South Australia seem happy to get behind the Sydney team, but the prevailing mood in Victoria is also to back them against the West. This comes from the club's history as formerly South Melbourne, and also the theory that a Sydney win would be "good for the game" in developing the NSW market. So all-in-all there will be unprecedented Aussie support for one of the Grand Final sides over the other. But there will also be a lot of support for the Swans from further afield, with reports that there is big interest in the match from Ireland with Sydney's Irishman Tadhg Kennelly fast becoming a star in both countries. Jon Anderson wrote the following article in the Herald Sun on 20th September.

Ireland backs Kennelly and Swans

Two months ago Tadhg Kennelly decided it was time he got to "find out what all the talk was about".

So, having never been to a Grand Final, he bought himself a ticket.

Now he finds himself a key player on the biggest day in Australian rules and the reason the game will be televised live into Ireland for the first time.

"It's really big in Ireland, really full-on since last Friday night. I'm getting messages from home at one o'clock, two o'clock, three o'clock so I've got to take my phone off," Kennelly, 24, said.

"The game isn't normally shown live, just a few highlights, so maybe I've helped."

Kennelly grew up in County Kerry dreaming of grand finals, in his case the All-Ireland Gaelic football final that his family is legendary for back home.

He says the experience of his brother Tim and father Noel, who between them have played in 12 All-Ireland finals, has been invaluable.

"Dad played in eight grand finals for five premierships and Noel has played in four for three, so I've had a bit of a rehearsal for it," Kennelly said. "My dad owned a pub and before one grand final I remember him leaving it to go bush for a week just so he could get away. But I guess it's pretty hard for me to do that, go AWOL and then turn up on Saturday morning.

"I know it's not just another game, but that's how I'm going to treat it, do all the normal things but enjoy the week for what it is.

"We know how massive the game is. There is a generation of people coming to the end of their lives who want to know, `Will we see one before we die?' "

Kennelly can't say how nerves will affect him come Saturday after his amazing rise from novelty to a player opposition coaches plan strategies to contain.

"I struggled a bit early in the season when opposition sides took me back to the goalsquare, but we can upset them by rotating players such as me and Craig Bolton," he said.

"It's made me a better footballer, not letting opposition sides dictate to me. Against the Eagles I normally get their midfielders and half-forwards.

"It was gut-wrenching losing to them in the first final, but we have shown the character of our side since."

Original article: http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/footy/common/story_page/0,8033,16654174%255E19742,00.html

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