GAA Football

Tiernan Kelly regrets 'out of character' action, says Clann Eireann team-mate

Tiernan Kelly was an Armagh championship winner with Armagh last year
Andy Watters

TIERNAN Kelly deeply regrets his “out of character” actions at Croke Park last Sunday and he will learn from his mistake, says former coach and Clann Eireann team-mate Ryan Henderson.

Lurgan native Kelly, who hasn’t played since May due to a blood-clotting issue, attempted to gouge Galway forward Damien Comer’s eyes during a bad-tempered melee as Armagh and Galway players and backroom teams made their way to the Cusack Stand tunnel.

The Clann Eireann clubman has been vilified and condemned in all quarters since what Taoiseach Micheal Martin described as a “disturbing” incident occurred at the end of normal time in the All-Ireland quarter-final epic. Martin said it spoiled a thrilling encounter which Galway won in a penalty shoot-out.

“The TK I know is a great fella around the club,” said Henderson.

“He’s a teetotaller and a non-smoker and a role-model for the youngsters. He’d be down helping at underage sessions and doing a lot of work you wouldn’t even hear about.

“He’s very well thought of because he’s a good lad, he really is. I’ve known him for a long time and what we saw on Sunday was totally out of character. He’ll learn from it and come back stronger.”

Henderson coached Kelly at minor level and they are now team-mates in the Clann Eireann senior team which ended a 58-year wait to win their county’s senior championship last year.

Kelly may not be involved for the club at all this year. He played in Armagh’s Ulster Championship loss to Donegal but has since been ruled out with a medical condition that requires ongoing monitoring.

“To have the issue that he’s dealing with and to be ruled out for months can’t have been easy for him and he’s been in and out of hospital and taking medication,” Henderson explained.

“It came out of left-field and it’s not something you’d expect a 22-year-old to have to deal with. Obviously that doesn’t condone what happened but the last few months has been very difficult for him.

“There’s no doubt he regrets it what he did. Nobody wants to see that and, like a lot of things in life, you make a mistake and you learn from it. It’s one of those things and he’s going to have to take it on the chin and learn from it. He’s made a mistake and I’m sure we’ve all made plenty of them and sometimes it’s only when you make them that you realise you can’t make it again.”

Kelly was on part of the Armagh teams that became embroiled in large-scale melees against Tyrone and Donegal in this year’s National League but he wasn’t sanctioned for a role in either. Henderson hopes that his team-mate is allowed to accept his punishment, atone for his mistake and move on.

“We’ve all done things on the pitch we regret and you look back and say: ‘You know what, I shouldn’t have done that’ and you learn,” he said.

“He’s got caught up in the emotion of it all on Sunday and he did something he shouldn’t have and there’s been a media jump-on and a social media jump-on - the Taoiseach and everybody is talking about it.

“The club will rally round him and Armagh will rally round him because we know the type of fella he is and this is totally out of character for him. I’d say he’ll take his punishment, whatever the GAA decides, and that will be it. Sometimes you have to hold your hands up and admit you were wrong and I’m sure TK will do that and draw a line and move on.

“I hope people will understand that he has made a mistake and realise that he’ll learn from it because this has been hard for him and his family and you worry about the impact this could have on him mentally.

“Fights like that one on Sunday aren’t good and I hope this is a watershed moment for the GAA. I hope they can get rules in place that stop these things from happening. Fellow Gaels will hopefully understand that TK is aware he made a mistake, one that’s not a true reflection of the young fella, and provide some support.”

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