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Friday 20 October 2017

as Kean as ever for cat fight in croker

Talisman Keaney insists the battle for Liam MacCarthy starts Sunday evening regardless of Leinster final result

WIN SUMMER CAMP PLACES

The Herald and CP Adventure are offering readers two free places to attend the Adrenaline Wet and Wild Summer Camps. The camps take place from Monday to Friday (10am to 4pm), and include an overnight camping trip in Wicklow.

To be in with a chance, just answer this question: Who are Dublin playing in the Leinster senior hurling final on Sunday?

Answer must be sent to our Facebook page www.facebook.com/cpadventure. There will also be 10% discount for any booking when Herald is mentioned on booking form.

FIRST of all, it's Conal with a 'Con' as in 'continental' at the start. Not a 'Coe', as in Sebastian.

Say 'Connell' and you have it.

"The way I see it is, anyone that doesn't know me, calls me Conal 
(Coe-nle). Anyone who knows me, calls me Conal (Connell).

"Look at this stage, it drives me mad but sometimes I just answer to either. Other times I just ignore people!"

Second of all, Sunday won't end his world either way.

He has a Leinster medal already and would love a second but the summer is a larger canvas now for him and Dublin.

"At half five on Sunday evening, the All-Ireland championship begins, whether you win or lose," he says.

"Don't get me wrong, it's a great game to get. And it's a great opportunity for us to go and have a cut at Kilkenny.

"Another Leinster title would be huge for Dublin. Back-to-back would be great. And if we win, great.

"If not, it's not the end of the world. We're still on plans to reach our goals."

So if maturity became the byword for Dublin's performance against Wexford, it's because they've all grown up and now, it seems, they're slightly desensitised to the thrill of mid-summer.

Indeed, it's saying something for the sheer scale of devastation wreaked upon the infrastructure of the hurling landscape last year than here, at ground zero, it's arguable whether Kilkenny or Dublin need this Leinster title more.

Making the final, Keaney points out, means hurling for the summer. And he is more responsible than anyone for ensuring Dublin would just that.

Five points from play against Wexford in a performance described this week by Jack Guiney as "one of the performances of his life".

Oddly in light of his display, Anthony Daly said afterwards that Keaney hadn't given any great indication beforehand that it might arrive in Wexford Park, though he added context this week.

"You always felt with Keaney ... we might have said it after the match he wasn't in great form," Daly explained, "but I think I referred to it straight after the match that Tommy Dunne kept saying 'he'll be alright on the day'. Cometh the hour...."

"It's obviously nice to have a good performance," Keaney reflects.

"But you're still only one game away from a bad performance. Going into that game, there were a lot of pressure on a lot of lads who would be so-called regulars who hadn't been playing well."

CAMERAS

When they gave him the glass in Wexford Park for his Man of the Match award, Keaney told the cameras it didn't matter who came through the other Leinster semi-final and he meant it.

"In 2011, we focused all year on that game against Kilkenny," he points out. "Ultimately, we failed that day and we got an awful trimming off them."

Lesson learned.

Last year, they zoned in on the 'hit' rather than the 'mark'. It worked.

So Keaney understands those who say that symbolically, the Kilkenny win was the greater feat than actually winning the Leinster final but doesn't hold an active subscription to the theory.

"It was funny for us. Coming out of the drawn (Kilkenny) game, we were hugely disappointed we didn't win.

"But when we analysed it, we knew were good enough to win the second game.

"We were playing well and we knew we were going to win.

"A lot more was made of it than we made of it.

"You see videos of people celebrating on the pitch afterwards but for us, we knew we were going to win it. There was nothing to celebrate.

"It wasn't about Kilkenny. They were just in our way to go and win the Bob O'Keeffe, which was a huge thing for us last year, to win it," says the Ballyboden St Enda's man.

It would, though, have formed one of the great unticked boxes had Dublin beaten Kilkenny without sealing the deal against Galway in the final.

"There was a bit of pressure on us after beating Kilkenny to win the Leinster title," he accepts.

"But this year, it's kind of different. You can see the way the management are, if lads aren't playing well, they'll just be taken off or they won't be played.

"It's not about who we're playing. I'm not denying it'd be great to beat Kilkenny in the Leinster final. But if they beat us by a point or they beat us by ten points or whatever, we're still going to move on.

"We're going to wake up the next morning and prepare for an All-Ireland series."

Still, 18 points in 2012, 11 in 2011, 19 in 2010, six in 2009...Kilkenny have administered some pretty bitter doses to Dublin, even during the recent renaissance years.

And before that, just the sight of the waspish stripes was enough to turn a half decent Dublin team to clay.

"It probably was a factor for a lot of counties," Keaney points out. "But going back to the days before I left, in 2003 and 2004, I certainly never feared playing them. I loved playing them.

BEST

"You were always testing yourself to see how good you were against the best. And the young lads coming through now have always been beating Kilkenny at minor and 
under-16. They don't know where this myth comes from, that Kilkenny are unbeatable.

"There is no fear of anyone. That goes through the whole squad."

Times have changed then.

Keaney is 32 this September and even more so than age, the addition of family members tends to force a rethink of an inter-county player's priorities.

Kate, his first born, is five now. Zoe is 10 months.

"They're not much into the hurling. But it gets you away from everything. When you come back, whether you've played good or bad, it doesn't matter to them.

"It's irrelevant. It's just a game on television.

"They could see the World Cup on television and wonder why you're not playing.

"But I don't know anything else other than training and thinking about games and championship and hurling and 'have I got enough hurls?' and 'how am I going to get more hurls?' and 'is my touch right?'

"I don't really know anything else. Until it comes to the day that that decision has to be made…"

"Look," Keaney adds, "I don't know yet when that will be. I know it's coming close. But I'd like to try finish on a high if I could."

He's sampled Sunday's offering already though. His 'fix' lies somewhere further down the line.

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