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Donal Keogan: 'There is unfinished business with the team - everyone was very disappointed'

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Meath footballer Donal Keogan, left, with Meath Hurler James Toher at the launch of the 2015 Bord na Mona Leinster GAA OByrne, Walsh and Kehoe Cup Competitions

Meath footballer Donal Keogan, left, with Meath Hurler James Toher at the launch of the 2015 Bord na Mona Leinster GAA OByrne, Walsh and Kehoe Cup Competitions

Meath footballer Donal Keogan, left, with Meath Hurler James Toher at the launch of the 2015 Bord na Mona Leinster GAA OByrne, Walsh and Kehoe Cup Competitions

ON one level, it was a little surprising when last week, Mick O'Dowd named Donal Keogan as Meath captain for 2015.

Keogan is, after all, just 23 years of age, asked now to lead a dressing-room containing experienced, natural figureheads like Kevin Reilly and Stephen Bray.

On another, it's of no great shock at all.

After this summer's Leinster final implosion, the 16-point thrashing by Dublin and all the badness contained therein, O'Dowd still found time to isolate the Rathkenny defender for individual praise.

The grimy night the Royals exited the Championship to Armagh, he led the running for Man of the Match from corner-back.

"I was grateful to Mick to even consider me and it shows the confidence he has in me," Keogan told the Herald.

leader

"I just have to keep going and do what I'm doing. Lead and everyone has to follow."

"I suppose I have to be seen to be a bit more of a leader.

"But I'll just do the same things and keep going and everyone else will row in behind you.

"Lads will follow if you just keep it simple. That's the way I look at it.

"That's the way I'll approach it. Different people have different approaches.

"Other people would like to be the stand out figure in the dressing-room but I'll just lead and hopefully people will follow me.

"There's loads of leaders in the panel," Keogan added.

"It wont be just me talking. Other lads will have stuff to say and I absolutely welcome that. That what I'll look for; other lads to step up as well.

"It's not about one person leading the thing. It's a group effort. Other lads are just as big leaders. It could have been anyone."

A season which was hindered by the injuries to the likes of Conor Gillespie, Eamonn Wallace and the promising Cillian O'Sullivan finished for the Royals with stagnation in Division 2 of the League, that Leinster final result and a disappointing qualifier exit to Armagh.

And so Keogan acknowledged: "There is unfinished business there with the team.

"We know ourselves. Everyone was very disappointed with the way we finished up.

"So maybe next year we'll go out with that at the back of our minds and rectify that.

"Because we're better than that and we know ourselves we're better than that."

O'Dowd has often articulated his stance that Meath's potential to compete consistently with football's elite again is predicated on their ability to climb into DIvision 1 of the League, a task they'll begin again next February.

"I think everyone would agree with that," Keogan reckoned.

"The top eight teams in the country, that's Division 1. The League is the ultimate display of your consistency and it's a display of the strength of your squad as well.

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"If we had gone up last year, it might have been too soon because our squad might not have been developed enough.

"But this year, hopefully, if we have a run in the League and get promoted, I think we'll be able to compete with the top eight.

"Every team does that at the start of the year," Keogan added.

"You sit down and you figure out small goals. You work towards a bigger goal in summer. But before that, you want game time.

"But to progress, I think you need mini goals like that. And you keep going through them all and you get to a bigger one at the end of he year.

"It's hard to keep focused if you don't have goals. We mightn't write them down on paper: 'this is our number one goal.' But we all talk about it."


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