Tuesday 21 February 2017

'I didn't plan on playing any football but I can't complain' - Keaney

Michael Verney

Published 16/03/2016 | 02:30

Ballyboden St Enda's Conal Keaney. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Ballyboden St Enda's Conal Keaney. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

Combining hurling and football wasn't what Conal Keaney had planned at the start of 2015 but over a year later he isn't complaining as Ballyboden St Enda's stand on the verge of an All-Ireland club football title.

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Having played with the Dublin footballers from 2004-2010, missing out on Sam Maguire success in 2011 to return to the small ball with the Dubs, it's a position Keaney didn't envisage.

As reigning Dublin SHC champions, Ballyboden were below par in 2014 and in an attempt to claw their title back, hurlers like Keaney, Shane Durkin and Simon Lambert concentrated solely on hurling.

But sport works in mysterious ways and as Cuala were bridging a 21-year gap to win a Dublin hurling crown, Keaney and co helped 'Boden dethrone reigning Leinster kingpins St Vincent's in the football decider.

"We were disappointed with how we were beaten, and we asked, 'Why were we beaten? How were we so flat?' Maybe it was because we were trying to juggle both and three or four of us were saying, 'We're getting a bit older so we'll just focus on the hurling and give it a big crack'," he said.

Developed

"We tried that and it didn't work so we went back to playing football and look where it has developed since then. We just happened to fall back into football, you just never know what's down the road."

After coming close to claiming a first Leinster title with the hurlers, the Firhouse Road club broke their duck via football in December with Keaney is quick to praise manager Andy McEntee and the role of all the "hurlers".

"Andy, he's impossible to say no to ... 'Ah come down and have a look', and then all of a sudden he puts you in full-forward and before you know it, you're playing! I'm glad we went against what we said at the start of the year, it's working well," he said.

"People might only see someone like Shane Durkin or Simmo (Simon Lambert) come on for the last five or 10 minutes, but the experience those lads have, they're invaluable to bring in and any of the players we're bringing off the bench would play in any other team, if not inter-county.

"It's nice to know it's there but it won't matter a damn on St Patrick's Day, we still have to go and win the game and hopefully we won't need to be bringing on those subs to rescue us."

At 33, it would be an unlikely All-Ireland triumph but scarcely has anyone deserved it more.

Irish Independent

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