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Conor McKenna on Tyrone return | playing for passion instead of money | horse riding

Tyrone star Conor McKenna talks about leaving the AFL, Mickey Harte contacting him, making his debut, riding horses, and much more

Tyrone star Conor McKenna talks about leaving the AFL, Mickey Harte contacting him, making his debut, riding horses, and much more.

Conor McKenna creases a broad smile when he is asked about the huge bruise on his arm.

The Eglish man has made a stirring return to Gaelic football after six years in the AFL, and the big black mark almost seems a source of pride.

In his two games back with Tyrone, the forward has hit 3-4 from play and assisted for more, and his addition has lifted the mood surrounding the Red Hand County.

A couple of months ago, it was doom and gloom as 2019 All Star Cathal McShane was ruled out for the season, but the performances of McKenna and youngster Darragh Canavan have injected quality and excitement into the side.

“That is a bruise, yep,” says McKenna with a big grin. “That is from the shoulder on Michael Murphy (in the recent league clash against Donegal).

“I’m presuming now. I had a dead arm for a few days and then it went black.

“It was good aye, it was just 50-50, we both took a step back and went again, a fair hit.”

The sides will meet again this Sunday in Ballybofey as the Ulster SFC championship throws in, and it was to play in games such as this that McKenna left the Essendon Bombers and the AFL behind.

In between games, the roaming forward helps out his dad Pat with their horses.

“It’s sort of strange, trying to get a job is difficult,” says McKenna.

“Last few weeks, I’m out kicking about most days and, lucky enough, my dad has a business so I’m giving him a hand the odd day with a few horses. I’m looking after them, but no job yet.

“My da trains a bit of horses so I ride them out and stuff,” he adds.

“I’m trying to get one myself to ride out again, but at the minute it just cleaning out and taking them racing and stuff.

“One ran in Dundalk last week so they’re sort of all over Ireland. We have four or five in training, so just a bit of craic.”

McKenna laughs when asked if he might have the life of a professional trainer ahead of him,

“Oh Jesus no, it’s more of a hobby than a money-maker I think.

“I did actually,” he says of having a fall from a horse. “During the pandemic, I was home from Essendon for about two months.

“Because you couldn’t go anywhere, I was just riding the horses with my da, and then one of them flipped up and nearly landed on top of me.

“That was the end of that. I’m looking to get one that can maybe carry a bit more weight, because I thinks I’m a bit too big at the minute.”

Click play on the video at the top of the page to watch the full interview as McKenna talks about his decision to leave the AFL, Mickey Harte contacting him, making his debut, and much more.

AIB, proud sponsors of both Club and County, today teamed up with inter-county footballers Seán O’Shea (Kenmare Shamrocks and Kerry), Cillian O’Connor (Ballintubber and Mayo), Ross Munnelly (Arles-Kilcruise and Laois) and Conor McKenna (Eglish St. Patrick and Tyrone) as well as with Kerry legend Colm Cooper and Donegal Coach and former Mayo Manager Stephen Rochford to launch their support for this year’s GAA All Ireland Senior Football Championships.

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