Conor Keenan: Game of Legends a 'career highlight'
CUMMAN Pheader Naofa hurler Conor Keenan described Saturday’s Game of Legends event as a career highlight and hopes the showcase Ulster Select v Kilkenny Legends contest in Newry will give hurling in the area a shot in the arm.
All-Ireland-winning legends including DJ Carey and Charlie Carter rolled back the years with some scintillating hurling skills and tricks and while a few of the Kilkenny players may not have been household names, there was no doubting their ability.
Over 3,000 fans turned up at Pairc Esler to watch a hurling spectacle.
The Ulster Select was managed by Brian Murphy and featured Derry’s Ruairi Conway, Antrim’s Ciaran Clarke, Down’s Danny Toner, Donegal’s Danny Cullen, Armagh’s Shea Gaffney, and players from the CPN club, who hosted the event.
Warrenpoint hurler Chris Rooney captained the Ulster team, while his clubmates Mitch Murphy, Conor Keenan, Mark Rafferty, Brian Og Murphy, John O’Kane, James O’Hare and Tom Daly all got some action.
After the match, which Kilkenny comfortably won 4-12 to 1-10, Keenan couldn’t hide his delight at taking part.
“It is a career highlight for the Warrenpoint lads,” he said.
“We said earlier in the year that this was going to be the most significant game of hurling that we’d play in during our lives.
“That is in terms of who we were playing with, Derry’s Liam Hinphey, Antrim’s Chris O’Connell and the Down lads, and then of course the team we are playing against – it doesn’t get any bigger than Kilkenny.
“DJ Carey and Charlie Carter are heroes of hurling and just to be on the field with them is so special.
“Hopefully it will provide a huge boost for hurling in the area, which it badly needs.
“The whole concept was to showcase hurling, to put it on a stage, to have a Kilkenny team playing hurling in Newry and show people what the game is all about. We are trying to convert a few souls to the small ball game.”
DJ Carey struck a great goal, Charlie Carter found the net twice and Michael Carey grabbed Kilkenny’s other goal while Carter, Martin Carey, Michael Grace and John Mulhall kept the scoreboard ticking over throughout.
There was a huge cheer when Danny Cullen (1-1) scored his goal for Ulster late in the game, while points came from Danny Toner (Ballygalget), John O’Kane (CPN), Ruairi Convery (Swatragh), Shéa Gaffney (Middletown) and Liam Hinphey (Kevin Lynch’s).
Kilkenny greats Henry Shefflin and Tommy Walsh weren’t able to take part, but their manager Rackard Cody was proud to be part of such a unique occasion and hopes the Ulster team can return the favour in the future.
“It was a great sporting game and a credit to the Ulster team,” he said.
“When I put the team together I was short of a few of the big guns such as Henry Shefflin and Tommy Walsh, but the boys that did show were a credit to their county.
“We are privileged to come up here and hurl in such a lovely venue as Pairc Esler. It is great to see any Kilkenny team come up here and participate in a game because it is great for hurling in this part of the country.
“For a number of years we have been at the top of the All-Ireland scene and it is an honour to be here and I will invite these guys to come back down the road some day and give us a game in Nolan Park.”