herald

Saturday 1 October 2016

Rams star Richard is out of the cold and revved up for big Euro adventure

Richard Keogh at Ireland squad training. Photo:
Richard Keogh at Ireland squad training. Photo:

Richard Keogh ended up, as a teenager, playing club football in an Iceland which was at the time not a nation of sporting renown capable of qualifying for Euro 2016 but a footballing backwater.

His progress since then, just like the emergence of Iceland itself, is a sign that patience can be rewarded, the payback for Keogh a seat on the Ireland team flight which landed in Paris last night.

Sean St Ledger made history by being the only player to score at Euro 2012 who had never played top-flight football at club level. Keogh, along with club-mates Jeff Hendrick and Cyrus Christie, has never appeared in the Premier League and clubs like Carlisle, Coventry and Bristol City are his back story, but that only makes the 26-year-old more determined to prove himself on the big stage.

"You've always got to dream and strive for the best in your career. When I was growing up and seeing Ireland in finals I always thought to myself one day I would want to fulfil that," says Keogh.

"I'm lucky enough that I've been able to achieve that. It's been a good story, a great journey and I'm very lucky to get to this point. Sometimes you go through setbacks, I felt like I had to take a couple of steps back to really find myself and get my career going at Carlisle. I haven't looked back since.

"If you look through the [Ireland] squad there are quite a few different stories about how we have managed to get to this point.

"Whenever you experience a negative situation you always want to use it as a positive. Look at the best players in the world, nobody is perfect, nobody can ever play 500 perfect games."

An early chapter in that story saw Keogh, then 19, go on loan to Icelandic side Vikingur, when he was struggling to make his face fit at Stoke City. "At that stage of my career it was the right thing for me to do. I was playing youth/reserve football," he says.

"I wanted to go into a league playing against men and playing for points so it meant more. The league was a good standard for me and I came back ready."

Keogh has come from a position where he was an unknown, in international football terms, to the point where he has a very good chance of starting against Sweden in Paris on Monday, the 29-year-old now feeling very much at home, though it was his display in the play-off games against Bosnia which bolstered his status.

"The feeling of actually playing those two games and the adulation of securing qualification, it was an amazing moment," he says.

"I've played in big games, luckily enough, the [Championship] play-off final, but that one, there was just something special about it. That night was just.. I felt like we were never going to lose. The team felt so confident and with the fans behind us, when Jonny's second goal went in, I don't think that feeling will ever be replicated, though Shane Long's goal (against Germany) was very close.

"Because we were so close and the group has been together for that long, and for everyone to write us off and not really think we had a chance of qualifying, to come through how we did and do it all together, it was just special to be a part of it."

Over the last few days, Keogh and his Ireland team-mates watched as rivals teams landed in France, ahead of their arrival last night, making it all seem more real.

"We've got the friendlies out of the way now and we have just been focusing on Sweden," he says.

"It has gone really well, the boys are in great form. It's just excitement to get there now; we are really chomping at the bit to get settled in.

"What an occasion," added the Derby defender.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News