Shane Keegan insists four years of 'very hard work' behind First Division title success
Wexford Youths manager Shane Keegan praised the character of his players for bouncing back from a disastrous start to their season to claim the First Division title and make a historic step into the top level of Irish football.
Last night’s 3-0 win over Athlone Town means that Wexford, who only joined the league in 2007, will compete with the country’s best next season.
Keegan, who at 33 is the youngest manager in the league, admitted that it is a long way removed from the opening month of the campaign where they kicked with a loss to newcomers Cabinteely and then to near neighbours Waterford United.
At that stage, it looked like it was going to be a long year for Wexford whose best league finish prior to this season was fourth spot in the First Division.
“It’s been four years of very hard work I can tell you,” says Keegan, who took over from Noel O’Connor in 2011. “There have been as many downs as there was ups, including this season.
“When you’re aiming for a league title and trying to convince players you’re aiming for a league title and then you lose your first two games of the season against the two teams that have ended up bottom, there’s some serious, serious questions asked but I think it stood to us. We’ve turned it around. It’s culminated in a fantastic night.”
Over 1,300 fans came to Ferrycarrig Park to support a club that needs the platform of Premier Division football to really put itself on the map. With a seven point lead heading into the third last game of the season, confidence was high although Keegan felt complacency was slipping in at the start of this week and let the group know.
“For a slight minute on Monday night, the first 10-15 minutes of the training session, I could see lads huddling together and talking about where they were going celebrating and what they were intending doing on Friday night,” Keegan explained.
“I very, very, very rarely lose my cool but, by God, I certainly lost my cool at that one. We put them in their place, we corrected that mentality very very quickly and for the rest of the week we trained brilliantly and banished all talk of anything being wrapped up or anything won and that stood to us.”
Danny Furlong’s 28th league goal of the season, a new First Division record, settled the nerves around the venue with Eric Molloy and Aidan Keenan striking late to delight a crowd that included chairman and driving force Mick Wallace TD.