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Tuesday 17 October 2017

Keaney: no doubt over our victory

Ballyboden St Enda’s Conal Keaney with his daughter Kate, age 7, celebrate Boden’s AIB All-Ireland club SFC final victory over Castlebar Mitchels in Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day. Pic: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Ballyboden St Enda’s Conal Keaney with his daughter Kate, age 7, celebrate Boden’s AIB All-Ireland club SFC final victory over Castlebar Mitchels in Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day. Pic: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

In invoking his inner Ger Loughnane, Conal Keaney also risked offering himself as a soldier to fortune. Keaney, emboldened, came out with that "we're going to win it", line after Ballyboden St Enda's All-Ireland dramatic club semi-final win over Clonmel Commericals last month.

"It flashed through my head alright," he admitted after the final glory was secured on St Patrick's Day, his prediction emphatically upheld. "But no, I had no doubt that we were going to win it."

His hubris confirmed as prophecy, it was impossible to pick holes in Keaney's words.

Destiny

Andy McEntee said afterwards that he didn't really believe in destiny but there were moments in their campaign when something powerful and persuasive was keeping Ballyboden St Enda's alive.

Ballyboden were three points down in that All-Ireland semi-final, a man down too and unable to purchase a score.

In the Leinster final, only a missed free from Paul Cahillane so utterly out of character with the player's free-taking ability and the level of difficulty of his task spared 'Boden extra-time.

"Maybe our name was written on this cup from very early on," Keaney mused.

"You look at the Leinster final, you look at Commericals …. but you have to make it happen. And funny enough, when we were watching the hurling game (beforehand) and it was going one-sided, we were saying 'Jesus, it must be great to win an All-Ireland final when it goes like that'.

"And I said 'lads, why don't we try and do that ourselves and just enjoy the last 15 minutes?'

"Funnily enough, we did that. So it's just great to be part of that. It's a huge day for Ballyboden.

"It's great to be part of such a great squad. We're all really close friends. It's special with the club. And this is really special."

For 16 years, Keaney has chased an All-Ireland with Dublin, first in hurling, then in football and more recently, back to hurling again.

Last year, he hadn't even planned on playing club football so when he calls this win "very strange but very sweet" it's clear where Keaney is coming from.

"The best day we've had with Ballyboden," he confirmed.

"It's a great bunch of lads and a great management team and I'm a really proud Ballyboden man.

"It's not really sunken in yet. But spending time out on the field with your buddies and seeing lads in the stand that have coached you when you were younger … to see the emotion with them….

"To be fair, it doesn't sink in for a player right away but you can see the emotion and how it feels to everyone else in the club so you know it must be special.

"I think the support was massive."

For all Keaney's certainty Ballyboden St Enda's would prevail, he couldn't have predicted how amenable those first few minutes would be to their cause.

Out of blocks

"I don't think anybody expected that, to be fair," he admitted. "We kind of came out of the blocks and caught them unawares - pretty much like the county final with Vincent's.

"We got the goal and they kicked one or two wides and we were getting scores and things were going wrong for them all over the field.

"I think they dropped their heads really early. After maybe 15 or 20 minutes, you could see that their body language was gone.

"You can see it. They start looking at each other and the communication stops.

"Maybe," he added, "that curse is coming back to haunt them.

"I'm really proud to be associated with this club and this football team. And we're very lucky to have Andy (McEntee) as a manager.

"We're very lucky to have quality players all the way through the squad, not just one-to-15.

"This team is only getting stronger and stronger."

McEntee's stock is understandably high then.

Having taken Meath to an All-Ireland minor final in 2012, wherein they were beaten by Dessie Farrell's Dublin team, he then took a team unfancied to as much as contest their own county title to an All-Ireland on Thursday.

In this, Keaney has been unwavering.

He labelled McEntee "one of the best managers I've ever had" after Ballyboden won Leinster and his opinion hasn't changed.

Perhaps wisely, McEntee avoided talk of managing at inter-county level in the direct aftermath of Ballyboden's win but that won't stop others discussing his suitability for such a role at some stage in the future.

"Not in the immediate future. I think we play Olaf's in the first round of the championship in three or four weeks' time so he won't be going anywhere soon," Keaney half-joked.

"But no, he's top class. I've said it over and over. He's one of the best managers I've ever had. He proved it in the last couple of weeks.

"He was so thorough. We knew exactly what they were going to do, their kick-outs, everything.

"All our homework was done. Every single detail. And I think that's the sign of an inter-county manager. That's the standards that they have.

"His man-management skills are unbelievable," Keaney continued. "But I hope he doesn't go for another few months yet anyway and we get another crack at this.

"I'm sure he'd make a great (inter-county) manager."

Keaney's own future with the Dublin hurlers has yet to be determined and he wasn't inclined to make any decisions last Thursday, instead sounding an ambitious note for the future of the newly-crowned All-Ireland champions.

"It's all to do again," he concluded. "Next time we'll have to do the double..."

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