By Niall Gartland
CONOR McKenna lives only a short spin away from the Athletic Grounds, so the former AFL star says that Tyrone’s league clash against neighbours Armagh tomorrow evening is almost like a home game for himself.
McKenna lives in Benburb, nestled on the banks of the River Blackwater which runs between the two counties, and he actually spent his school years in attendance at St Patrick’s Armagh (as did former All-Ireland winners Cormac McAnallen, Sean Cavanagh, Ryan Mellon, Colin Holmes and Philip Jordan.)
He has fond memories of the school – McKenna won an Ulster Colleges All-Star back for his MacRory Cup performances, and he returned to St Pat’s in 2016 to deliver an AFL coaching session to PE students – so he can’t wait to renew acquaintances with a few of his old friends on Saturday evening.
He said: “It’s been a long time since I played in the Athletic Grounds, it was back in my MacRory days, so I’m looking forward to getting back there.
“It’s a great pitch and I know a lot of their side having played with some of them and against some of them in my younger days.
“I loved my time at St Pat’s Armagh, I made a lot of good friends but all that will be put to one side come Saturday evening.
“Armagh is like a home game for me as it is only 15 minutes from my house compared to 40 minutes to Omagh.”
McKenna also admits he’s looking forward to playing someone other than Donegal (three of the four matches he’s played since retiring from the AFL last season have been against Declan Bonner’s side).
“No matter how much training you do you can’t replicate that game intensity and the speed of a competitive game which can easily catch you out.
“That was only my fourth game of Gaelic in five or six years and three of those have been against Donegal so it will be good to play somebody different and get another game under my belt.”