Ireland will miss star Kennedy but have ‘two or three guys fighting for that spot’

IRELAND STAR TERRY Kennedy flew back to Europe briefly in recent days to visit Monaco for the World Rugby awards. He collected his well-earned 7s men’s player of the year prize and headed back Down Under.

He’s only a few months into his time living and working in Sydney, having taken a break from Ireland 7s duty for the current season. Kennedy will be back and that’s brilliant news for James Topping’s squad as they look towards the 2024 Olympics.

But for now, they’re going to miss a player who was the main man when it came to creating and finishing tries last season. Kennedy scored 50 of them on the World Series before helping Ireland to third at the World Cup. Defensively, he was relentless too.

His are big boots to fill but he went to Australia with the Irish set-up’s best wishes and they were delighted to see him honored on Sunday night in Monaco.

“You see what Terry does on the pitch, but off the pitch, he’s such a leader,” says Ireland men’s 7s head coach Topping.

“He keeps all the guys in check. He wouldn’t be backward in saying what he thinks about what guys are doing or how guys are performing. He would definitely have that sort of factor about him, which is what you need in a team.

“He’s the best trainer as well, he loves training. You sort of think he’s just beating guys but he has deserved that all the way through and plus he’s the guy who can play 14 minutes every game.

terry kennedy

Kennedy has been Ireland’s star player.

Source: Travis Prior/INPHO

“His attraction levels, I don’t think he missed anything throughout injury and that’s through a lot of his preparation. He puts himself in a really good position every time he performs. It’s just not a case of him scoring tries. The demands he puts on other players to give him the ball and supporting other players when he does have the ball to realize there is an opportunity every time he gets the ball.

“Listen, he was invaluable to us. He’d be the first guy probably to say, ‘Look, I get the ball given to me in space all the time.’ But he is a real diligent hard worker. Off the pitch, planning, looking at opposition, he does that inside out.

“A lot of the time it looks like he just skips about and takes guys on and beats them but he’s well clued in in his head about what he’s going to do each time he goes out onto the pitch.”

That’s all the stuff Ireland will miss after one of their most experienced players headed away to Australia.

The new season begins in Dubai in two weekends’ time and Ireland have to fill the void.

“I’d love to have him here still obviously but at the same time, you get an opportunity to do some things and he said to me, ‘I want to go and do this but I will definitely be back,’” says Topping .

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“Whenever someone says that to you, you’ve got to think, ‘Right, OK, this is what he wants to do.’ He’s done so much for the team and now we’ve got guys like Ed Kelly or Chay Mullins or Aaron O’Sullivan having a crack.

chay-mullins-scores-a-try

Connacht’s Chay Mullins played for Emerging Ireland recently.

Source: Steve Haag/INPHO

“We have two or three guys fighting for that spot and that’s what’s going to drive this on.”

Others must step up for now and Topping obviously hopes Ireland can become an even better team, but Kennedy’s return in the future is something they will be excited about.

“We have kinda gone ‘Listen, OK, we’re done for this year, you go and concentrate on your work, enjoy your time out.’

“He is a really competitive guy, so I’m sure he will end up playing rugby somewhere at some stage during this year. But I think he’s got aspirations of playing in the Olympics again and help the guys if he can to try qualify for that.”

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