Interview with Rosie Kenneally

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April 07, 2021

I imagine winning a senior county title with your club at only 15 years old is not that common, never mind playing in goals for your senior team and winning a county title at 15.  But looking back on Rosie Kenneally’s camogie career including her second coming inter-county career you quickly realise Rosie doesn’t do normal, she does special. For any camogie team a good goalkeeper is vital - a gifted fearless keeper like Rosie however is the difference between winning and losing, silverware and heartbreak, bonefires and tears. In 2003 Drom-Inch camogie club were desperately trying to win their first senior county title in 21 years. To get to the final they had to de-throne current champions Cashel. In the final an experienced Toomevara team stood in their way led by one of the best forwards to ever play the game in Deirdre Hughes.

“I definetely remember being nervous in 2003. I was a very quiet goalie back then, didn’t say too much and took my lead off the great defenders in front of me like Deirdre Delaney and Niamh Harkin” Drom-Inch needed a last minute goal to draw the game and take it to a replay. “I remember in the first game making a save from a Deirdre Hughes shot and thinking wow I just blocked a shot from one of the best forwards in the country” This gave me confidence going into the replay which we won.  

“I can’t remember when I first played in goals for Drom-Inch. I remember playing with the club at u12 and playing outfield. I also played outfield with the u14 boys team” 

It was home in the backyard in Barnane where Rosie’s goalkeeping days began. “ I was the second youngest in a family of 6. We use to all go out hurling outside and our neighbours the O’Hallorans and the Scanlons would come over to play. Nobody wanted to play in goals so they used to just tell me to go in being one of the youngest. Then when you were in there it was a matter of block the ball or get hit in the face”. In 1999 Rosie was just turning 12 when Tipperary won the senior All-Ireland final. The goalkeeper at the time was Jovita Delaney. 

“Jovita was a brilliant player. She was high profile and one of the best goal keepers around. I remember Dad taking me to the homecoming in Cashel that year and thinking being a goalie was cool”  

Fast forward 7 years later and Rosie is called into the Tipperary Senior Panel and is training alongside Jovita.  “When Paddy McCormack the Tipperary manager brought me into the senior panel in 2006 I was delighted. I was the third choice goal keeper behind Jovita and Joanne Nolan and I gained huge experience training with them”. Tipp reached the All-Ireland final that year and Rosie couldn’t wait to be a part of it, but she had to overcome a few roadblocks along the way. 

“I was the intermediate goalie also at the time and we were playing Cork in a championship game when I got an excruciating pain in my side. I was practically doubled over with agony in the goals and had to get one of the defenders to puck the ball out for me. I was at home in bed that night when the pain got progressively worse and Dad had to rush me to hospital – my appendix had burst and needed to be removed immediately. All I was thinking though is I can’t miss the All-Ireland and I asked the surgeon can he hold off taking them out because I’m togging out in an All-Ireland final in a few weeks. Needless to say he didn’t listen”. Three weeks post-surgery Paddy McCormack had arranged for Davy Fitzgerald to be a guest coach for one of the final training sessions before the All-Ireland final. “There was no way I was missing Davy’s training so I togged out”. Davy was his trademark passionate self and training was high tempo and snappy. “ I remember at one stage he roared at me because I was lagging behind in a drill. Paddy had to quickly explainto him I was just after having my appendix out. There was no way I should have been training”, laughs Rosie thinking back to the time. Tipperary lost to Cork that year and haven’t reached a final since but Rosie has fond memories of the occasion and recalls “standing beside Dee Dunne belting out the national anthem together”.  

Rosie donned the blue and gold jersey on many occasions always as goalkeeper bar one exception. The very first time making a Tipperary team was the primary game team. It was the first year of the primary game camogie team and a young Rosie was thrilled to be selected. In 2000 at only 13 she was picked on the county u16 panel as sub goalie. Tipp went on to win the Munster title. She had to wait another 10 years before picking up more silverware for Tipperary, a Munster senior title. By now Rosie had established herself as number 1 goalkeeper in the county. Outside of camogie life was hectic as a recently qualified Guard stationed in Dublin. This meant long commutes to training on top of shift work. A huge commitment for any player. But Rosie loved her camogie and the friendships and bonds formed with teammates. 


In 2008 Drom-Inch manager John Harkin needed to build a new team with 9 of the team that had started in the 2003 county final no longer available. He put his faith in the young players who had come up through the underage ranks and against all the odds they got back to a county final against Toomevara. “I won 3 senior county finals with Drom-Inch and each one was so hard won and so special”. In 2003 Drom needed a replay to get over the line while in ’08 Drom led by 4 points at half time but failed to score in the second half against a strong wind. They managed to hold out for a single point win thanks to dogged defending and another superb performance by Rosie in the goals. “In 2008 we were complete underdogs in Tipperary but went on an unbelievable roll and got better and better with each game, beating Douglas to capture the first ever Munster title for the club”. Athenry were hot favourites in the All- Ireland semi-final. Beaten All-Ireland finalists in 2007 they were on a mission to get back to the final. Jessica Gill was their star forward, probably one of the best forwards in the country at the time. But despite her and Athenry’s best efforts they couldn’t raise a green flag and Drom held on for a 1 point victory. Getting to the club All-Ireland final in 2008 was fantastic. I’ll never forget the build-up and excitement. We had great support who travelled to Ashourne that day to cheer us on”. Drom-Inch’s fairytale season came to disappointing end with defeat against Antrim and Ulster champions O’Donova Rossa. Jane Adams was the star of the show scoring 2-9 (2-4 from play) in a player of the match performace. “I didn’t know too much about Jane Adams before the game but I knew all about her by the end. At one stage I picked up a yellow card for a “strategic” tackle on her. She was literally unmarkable that day”.

Rosie’s third county final win came 3 years later but not before she along with her family suffered the ultimate loss. In August of 2011 a terrible road accident claimed the lives of Rosie’s parents Tommy and Angela while her sister Emma suffered devastating injuries. The Kenneally family along with neighbours, friends and the whole Drom-Inch community were heartbroken. Tommy and Angela were two of life’s beautiful people taken too soon in tragic circumstances. Angela had only recently retired at the time having taught junior and senior infants in Drom national school for 37 years while as Rosie recalls her Dad Tommy brought her and her sister Kristina (also a top class goalkeeper) to every training session and never missed a match. I asked Rosie how did she and Kristina find the strength to come back camogie training? “I remember we played championship 3 weeks after the funeral. I just threw myself into camogie. The club was a brilliant support to us and training and playing gave me a focus. Then we started winning and it gave everyone a lift. My brothers and sisters were coming to the matches and when we won it lifted everyones’ spirits for a while. Suddenly it wasn’t about trying to win a county final or a Munster final, I was just trying to keep winning to give my family and the community a lift”. 

The 2011 trilogy of county finals was as dramatic as they come. Leading in the first game at half time against a serious Cashel outfit, the game was abandoned at half time due to the desperate weather conditions. The re-fixture was a draw and so a third game was needed before Drom eventually emerged victorious with a 2 point win. It was an emotional and jubilant time for Rosie and Kristina. Celebrations went on long into the night in the Ragg but before long attention turned to trying to win a second ever Munster title. Once again Douglas were the opposition. Drom ran out 5-8 to 2-13 winners with Rosie outstanding in the goals and deservedly collecting the player of the match award. It will forever be sad that her two proudest supporters weren’t there to witness it. 

“That winter we trained hard and we were ready for Killimor in the All-Ireland semi and to everyones delight ran out 5 point winners 1-12 to 1-7. We were back in an All-Ireland final. This time in Croke Park against Wexford champions Oulart-the-Ballagh”. The final was a very disappointing end to what had been a great season for the Tipp club as they were totally outclassed by an Oulart team which included an array of All-Ireland winners with Wexford. Late in the game the Wexford side had built up a big lead and despite Rosie’s best efforts had already raised 3 green flags. “ I remember catching full-forward Ursula Jacob’s attention and saying to her shur ye might put the next one over the bar will ya”.  Rosie laughs as she recalls moments later Ursula being through on goal and “tapping it over the bar”. 

In her long camogie career to date Rosie has played with and against some of the best players in the country. College took her to Waterford IT where she loved playing in Ashbourne Cup competitions. Despite never winning an Ashourne tournament, Rosie was twice named on the Ashourne All-Star teams, a testament to her brilliant talent. “It’s funny I would have loved to have just one Ashourne Cup but after finishing in WIT Kristina went there to do nursing and won 4 Ashourne Cups in a row in goals”. “In my WIT camogie days I use to just launch the puck out long down to Ursula and she’d be sure to get onto it and score. She was definitely one of the best players I ever played with but unfortunately I also had to come up against her with club and county”. At intercounty level two Cashel players come to mind when asked who were the best she ever played with “Probably Una O’ Dwyer and Philly Fogarty, they were both so skilful and tough.” While for club Rosie loved having players of the calibre of Niamh Harkin and Michelle Shortt at full back and centre back respectively making life easier for her in the goals. 

In 2011 Rosie joined back up with the Tipp senior panel again but decided after a few months to call it a day. “ I was after giving a few years travelling home for county training a couple of nights a week and it was really starting to take it’s toll. Leaving the city centre around 5 it was a 2 and a half hour commute back for training, we would train then for an hour and a half and then I had a two hour drive back up. It could be after midnight going to bed and often I had to be up again at 6.30am”. Rosie continued to play with Drom-Inch but as the years went on it was harder and harder to make training and matches. “Work were always very supportive of me playing camogie and there is a great tradition of GAA in the guards but I was just finding it increasingly difficult to make trainings and be available for matches”. Rosie’s last appearance for Drom-Inch was in the Intermediate county semi-final in 2017. Unable to give a full commitment she started on the bench. Half way through the second half Drom trailed by 10 points and Rosie was thrown into the forwards to try and work a miracle and she came pretty close!! She managed 1-2 in 15 minutes and led a great comeback but the team was pipped at the post by a single point. It was a typical whole hearted performance by Rosie that she always gave in the green and red of her childhood club. 

In 2018 injury put a stop to any chance of competitive sport but in early 2019 Rosie had itchy feet to get back to the camogie field. Now settled in Portmarnock she contacted the local club Naomh Mearnóg to ask could she come down for some training. It didn’t take them long to realise they had a serious talented goalkeeper on their hands and they quickly encouraged her to officially transfer. Injury free and no more long commutes Rosie embraced her new club and before long she was helping them to win. After one game late in the summer the referee Brendan Cooper (father of Dublin footballer Johnny Cooper) approached her after the game, enquiring who she was and where she was from. Brendan knew Dublin camogie would be keen to have Rosie on board and asked her would she mind if he passed on her contact to the incoming management team. “ I said ya no hassle and didn’t think much more of it”. However in November Dublin senior camogie joint manager John Treacy rang her and asked her would she be interested in coming in for trials. “I thought about it for awhile. I knew from my Tipp days that it was a huge commitment and your life is practically put on hold. I thought though I only have a year or two left playing camogie and said I’d give it a go and see how it goes.” So 9 years since she last played camogie at inter-county level Rosie was back on a county senior panel this time for the Dubs! “In 2019 I was just looking to go training with Naomh Mearnóg for a bit of fitness and get to know a few people and here I was a few months later going Dublin training”. The different shade of blue suited Rosie and she was really enjoying the training. “There is 3 goalkeepers on the panel and Catherine Kantounia is the goalkeeping coach. So we spend a lot of time in the training session doing goalkeeping work. The coaching is top class and Catherine picks out one or two bad habits or aspects of our play that we need to work on for the next day at training. So 17 years after winning her first senior county title and 14 years after her first call up onto a county senior panel “I am still learning loads and developing as a keeper and enjoying my camogie”. Rosie was given the number 1 jersey for Dublins 3 opening league games including a trip to Tipp where despite losing she was delighted to keep a clean sheet especially against lots of familiar faces. 

The Dublin team trained on the Wednesday night as normal before the restrictions came into place the following day and Camogie like everything else was turned upside down overnight. As a guard Rosie is on the frontline. “Our shifts are longer now and things are different but everyone is just playing their part and doing their bit”. She misses the camogie and recently invested in a rebounder for the back garden which has been great to keep her eye in. “We have a strength and conditioning programme to follow and we have team meetings on Zoom and everyone is doing their best but nothing beats collective training so it is tough”. Like everyone Rosie is hoping to get back playing camogie in 2020 whether it is with club or county.   “At the end of the day sport is sport and everyone’s health and well-being is more important”. For now she has great memories to look back on and