Sunday 4 December 2016

Keane puts retirement plans on hold to answer Kenny's call

Published 06/09/2016 | 02:30

The former Sligo Rovers full back retired from League of Ireland football at the start of this year after deciding against playing on for another season. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
The former Sligo Rovers full back retired from League of Ireland football at the start of this year after deciding against playing on for another season. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

Alan Keane thought that the sporting highlight of his year would be trying to win Sligo GAA's Intermediate Championship.

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Instead, he will be part of the Dundalk squad that competes in the group stages of the Europa League after getting a call out of the blue from Stephen Kenny.

The former Sligo Rovers full back retired from League of Ireland football at the start of this year after deciding against playing on for another season. He was so serious about quitting that he claimed his tax refund in preparation for the next phase of his life.

Keane started playing Gaelic football again with his local club, St John's, in addition to taking on a part-time role as assistant manager of the Isle of Man's national team.

The 31-year-old was happy with that until a Sunday morning call from Kenny last month. "He caught me on the hop a little bit," says Keane. "He asked me how I was doing fitness wise and if I would come up and play in the friendly match with Everton."

Keane had watched Dundalk's European exploits with some envy and accepted the offer. It led to a short-term deal until the end of the season, with Kenny strengthening his panel due to fixture congestion. Tonight, Keane will be part of the squad that returns to his old stomping ground in Sligo.

The losers in the equation were St John's. Without their handy corner forward they exited the Intermediate Championship at the quarter-final stage over the weekend.

"They were devastated I had to leave," he says. "But the boys were slagging me too. We've gone to some mucky pitches and small dressing rooms this year and to go from there to what could have been Old Trafford... but it's Zenit or Alkmaar or Tel Aviv now. It's a big difference alright.

"It was too big an opportunity to turn down, to have a chance to play Europa League and go for another league title or FAI Cup. Even just to come in and see how Stephen works from a coaching point of view is great

"It'll be a great couple of months. I was happily retired but this opportunity came up and I'm delighted I'm actually getting the buzz back by coming into a super team."

Kenny has hinted to Keane that there could be an option for next season if everything goes well, but the seasoned operator is looking at this as a brief adventure. He had to repay his tax money so the move could go through, but can claim it back when he retires again.

He's gone to watch Sligo regularly this season and reckons that an improving side are going to be an extremely tough opponent with Kenny's men seeking to extend their lead at the top of the table to seven points, with a game more played than Cork.

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