A long, hard road for Blessington stalwart Eoin Keogh
Away from the noise and celebrations in the middle of the pitch in Aughrim on Sunday evening, loyal Blessington servant Eoin Keogh grabbed a bit of quiet time with his colleagues Mick McLoughlin and Conall Gallagher.
It looked as though he wanted to drink in the feeling, to become familiar with the notion that he was part of a championship winning team after a gap of 38 years. Perhaps he was expecting that old fiend disappointment to rest its heavy hand on his shoulder as it had so often done in the past since he started playing Senior football for the Blues, but he looked a little shocked, a little overcome by the whole process.
And the talented footballer admitted as much when we chatted.
“This is it, the top of my sporting life. I’m overcome to be honest. I don’t know how long I’m playing but it was all worth it.
“I stood here in 2017 (after losing to Rathnew) and I cried my eyes out on the pitch and I thought there were no more chances for me. I was 32 then, 36 now. You can say loads of things, but I’ve never known a bunch of lads as likeminded, as driven. I was always the one who was driven in training but this year lads were driving me, and I was the one who wanted to give up. I got put in a group during lockdown with Kevin Quinn, Craig Maguire, Conall Gallagher, those lads kept me young, and I have a massive appreciation for them,’ said Eoin.
“We (the team) did everything together. We trained, we hiked, we fished, we cycled, we ran in every forest in Blessington, we swam in every lake, we swam in the sea. We did everything. We lived in each other’s pockets. We tightened the bond beyond tight,’ he added.
What was the difference this year did he feel? It can’t be something as simple as Jonathan Daniels learning from the previous year’s defeat.
Eoin said it wasn’t as simple as that. He said it was a huge number of things, and had been building, and that every manager he had played under had helped guide them to this day in a way.
“It’s a long time coming. Every manager we ever had gave us something. I took something from every manager we ever had, from the first one I played under to the last,’ he said.
In 2017 he had let the occasion get to him, had worked himself into a frenzy and then was unable to deliver on the day. That wasn’t happening this time. He adopted a much more philosophical approach this time around.
“The message I kept getting in my head in the week leading up to the game was that the world’s going to keep turning tomorrow and too much pressure heaped on yourself is not going to change anything. We did it in 2017, we got all hyped up and the game was over in 10 minutes. That’s what happened. We were like startled earwigs.
“There was a plan for everything (this year). There was a plan for everything. No stone was left unturned,” he said.
And what about that winning score from the boot of one of the younger stars?
“I knew when that lad (Kevin Quinn) was getting involved that I was going in on his coattails, and he proved it there. A great lad, great attitude,’ he said.