Keegan back on the ball
Doncaster's new Dubliner feeling at home in Championship and relieved to leave Bohs' financial woe behind
THREE successive defeats and a 6-0 thumping in their last outing.
Not exactly league-winning form from the players of Doncaster Rovers FC, but one positive for fans of the Yorkshire club in recent weeks has been the form of their new signing from Bohemians Paul Keegan.
It's over 10 years since Keegan arrived in Yorkshire from Home Farm as a skinny 16-year-old on a YTS scheme with Leeds United but a decade on and the Dubliner has become a key figure for the side managed by former Irish international Sean O'Driscoll.
Results haven't gone their way, and their last game was instantly forgettable, a 6-0 loss away to Ipswich Town in midweek, but Keegan has settled into the Doncaster side instantly, is already a fans' favourite, and is loving life in the Championship, especially as he's relieved to have left behind the financial chaos that is the League of Ireland, released from his contract at Bohemians as part of the club's drastic cost-cutting measures.
Some LOI exports take a long time before settling in at a level like the Championship, but not Keegan for Doncaster, currently mid-table in the division, and he feels that his game has improved because he can focus on football, not finances.
"I loved playing in the League of Ireland, I won medals, played in the Champions League and made some great friends, but I am glad to be away from it all," says Keegan, due to make his sixth appearance of the season for Rovers in today's clash with Swansea.
"When you come over here you're just focused on the football, you're not worried about whether your wages will be there, you're not going to meetings with the manager or with the board to try and sort out money problems, that's all gone and it's such a relief to be able to focus on the football.
"You try to stay professional and stay focused once you get onto the pitch, but when you're not getting paid it's not easy. If your mind is right off the pitch then you'll be ok on it.
"I have no doubt that what was happening at Bohs off the pitch did affect us on the field. I'm over here now and I can just focus on my football.
"I keep hearing stories about clubs being in trouble, no one knowing what clubs will even be in the league this season and it's a shame because the league is going downwards.
"I thought things would be better once the Bohs thing was sorted out but then you heard about Fingal and then Galway getting kicked out, it seems like it's getting worse, not better.
"A lot of the good players are leaving, the standard is dropping, the crowds will be down and there's all the bad publicity from the negative stories, so it's hard to stay positive about it all."
But he is very positive about life at his new club. Keegan left England in 2005 when he finished with Leeds -- without playing a game for the Elland Road side though he was on the bench for a number of Premier League games -- and joined Drogheda, and now he's back just 30 miles away from Leeds in Doncaster. Keegan said: "It's different for me being here now, compared to when I first came to England at 16.
"That time I was just a kid when I came over, to Leeds, and the aim was to learn the game and try to progress.
"But this time I am here to play in the team and win matches, I am expected to do well as there is no bedding-in process, I am here to play games and that suits me," he says.
"I was ready to be patient and wait for my chance, but I came straight into the team and we won 1-0, so I have stayed in the team since then -- just a pity that we haven't really won any games since then," he added, still fresh from the midweek defeat by Ipswich.
"I don't think I was ever involved in a 6-0 defeat, my worst defeat was probably the 7-1 against Manchester United with the League of Ireland team last summer. We were down a lot of bodies for that game in midweek, I think we were missing 10 players through injury and we didn't have a single fit striker for the game. We had to play a midfielder up front. We tried to play our way out of it and play football but unless you are Barcelona or Arsenal you will get caught out.
"We haven't had an easy run in the last few weeks. We really have suffered with injuries at Doncaster and we have a small squad, with so many games we really suffer, I think we have two games a week for the next six weeks and that's very hard.
"So results haven't been great and, over the last few years with Drogheda and Bohs, I am not used to losing many matches. I was usually with a side which was competing for the league and for trophies.
"The Doncaster team needs a bit more ruthlessness, we have to realise that we can't just pass and play all the time. Teams set up against us by trying to bully us and play the long ball and we have found that hard to deal with
"So we need a bit more steel in the side and hopefully I can add a bit of that too."