By Paddy Kennelly (1997)
John Kennedy had, and still retains, the build of a perfect athlete – tall, lithe and with deceptive strength in his lean frame. Perhaps his most outstanding talent was for kicking long-range points. The tremendous length and pinpoint accuracy made him a lethal scoring machine. It was almost impossible to mark him over the hour.
In the course of a game one might beat him for fourteen balls out of twenty; one might even manage to shepherd him closely when conceding possession for the other six balls. But where was the use? A perfect side step or wicked dummy would gain for him just the amount of time he required and before you knew it he had scored six points from play, or – if you were foolish or desperate enough to foul him – from placed balls.
Another outstanding talent of his was for reading a game. He had an uncanny knack of knowing exactly where to position himself, and where best to find an unmarked colleague. Nowhere was this ability better displayed than in the All-Ireland final of 1984 against Dublin. This, surely, was John Kennedy’s finest hour. Time after time he found better-placed colleagues. One remembers particularly his cross-field passes to ‘The Bomber’, which resulted in some crucial scores for Kerry.
As often happens with inter-county footballers, John Kennedy’s magic was most frequently and most spectacularly on show for his club. How many games has he won, almost single-handedly, for Asdee?
And so it is that my favourite memory of John Kennedy is of an occasion far removed from Croke Park. It is of an evening in the pitch at Ballylongford when he was playing for St. Mary’s Asdee.
He won possession out near the sideline, about forty metres from goal. Immediately two defenders converged on him, determined not to allow him go for a score. His first kick, off the right leg, was blocked, but he regained possession. His second kick, again off the right leg, was blocked. Again he regained possession. Again he made to kick with the right leg. Again both defenders covered it. A faint shimmy and suddenly the ball was on his left leg. A quick glance and the ball was on its way from the sideline and straight between the posts. The perfect score.