Keenan calls for closed season expenses
LOUTH All Star Paddy Keenan has a message for the GAA authorities: "Give the players a break, but let's have the expenses for our closed season personal training."
The 26-year-old midfield powerhouse is not too concerned about the training ban on inter-county teams, but does argue that players should not be out of pocket for their continuing commitment.
The debate about the wisdom of the training ban continues, with some counties preparing amendments for Congress to either abolish or restructure it.
"I find it good in one sense, because I don't think there's a need to have collective training out on the field in November and December," said Keenan.
"If you go back in January and you can't get fit in the five months from January to the championship, you have to be asking questions of yourself.
"At the same time you have to be doing your gym work and your rehab work and that has to be done in November-December.
"From a player's point of view you're still expected to carry out every gym programme you are given.
"You could be at the gym three or four nights a week in November and December, so it's a bit frustrating you're not getting expenses for the travelling, and all the time and effort."
As for getting back on the field for 2011, Keenan and Louth did that in fine style in Drogheda when they hammered Athlone IT by 2-15 to 0-4 in the first round of the O'Byrne Cup last Sunday.
Tomorrow they face an interesting challenge against Wicklow.
"I played my first senior championship game for Louth against Wicklow in 2003. I don't remember much about the match, but I do remember I was taken off," Keenan recalled
"We beat Wicklow and played Dublin in the next round, but I mustn't have done much the first day because I didn't start against Dublin, which was frustrating."
Keenan can happily forget that early championship experience because he went on to become a regular.
He seeks to keep everything in perspective and not be caught out by looking in the rear-view mirror.
"I suppose any county player would dream of winning an All Star, but it's not something you can set your stall out at the start of the year to win," he said.
"Our aim this time last year was to get out of Division 3 and have a chance at the championship, if not win it. I can guarantee you I wasn't thinking about All Stars.
"Don't get me wrong -- I was delighted to get it, but it's now all about getting right for the league and championship. Those are the main aims for the year."
And what about the sympathy and popular support for Louth having been robbed of a Leinster final win against Meath? Keenan underlines his forward-looking perspective on that issue.
"Well, if you don't have the medals and you don't have the cup you don't have anything, but it doesn't really matter at this stage," he said.
"Regarding last year, that's gone. I know people are talking about it, but we don't want to let anything distract from this year, and we'll do whatever it takes to get back to that position this year.
"There have been plenty of false dawns for Louth over the last few years and in the years before that too, so our challenge at the minute is not to let that happen again.
"We have to push on from last year. It's very easy to rest on your laurels and fall back to the same old position, so we're all eager to start again and put in a big effort for this year."
Wicklow will offer a step up in terms of opposition compared to Athlone IT.
"It's hard to read too much into that result. We played Athlone IT last year in the O'Byrne Cup and they had a very strong team with a good few county players," said Keenan.
"This time they had lost a lot of those guys and had a few lads injured as well, so they were fairly depleted.
"It's great to be winning games no matter what time of year it is, but we'll be expecting a tougher game against Wicklow."
Keenan was delighted to be partnered in midfield last Sunday by Ronan Carroll, who returned to the side after almost a year out with a back injury.
"Ronan scored four points and it was great to see him back. It's a great addition to the panel to have him in there and pushing on again, and hopefully he'll go from strength to strength," said Keenan.
Carroll's return is timely as Louth have lost the services of Brian White, Michael Fanning and John O'Brien to emigration.
"Football can only hold you back so long. As much as the lads wanted to stay with us, people have bills to pay as well so you have to start making money somewhere," said Keenan.
"If that means going abroad, you have to bite the bullet and do it."