Friday 24 January 2020

St Pat’s talisman Keenan not worried by loss of home advantage

St Patrick's Paddy Keenan (centre) breaks through the Rhode block of Alan McNamee and Ciaran Heavey during their Leinster SF club championship clash
St Patrick's Paddy Keenan (centre) breaks through the Rhode block of Alan McNamee and Ciaran Heavey during their Leinster SF club championship clash
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

WHEN St Patrick's of Louth were considering an appeal against the Leinster Council's decision to strip them of home advantage for Sunday's clash with Kildare champions Sarsfields, Paddy Keenan's made his feelings clear.

"It was put to us, did we want to appeal? A few of us had been involved in 2010 and there was talk of an appeal for a while after that game and it was just a distraction," he recalled, referencing Louth's infamous Leinster SFC final defeat to Meath. "So we decided to concentrate on things we could control.

"We didn't know we were going to lose home advantage. There was no talk of it within the club beforehand so there was a bit of head-scratching going on. But from our point of view, we can't change it, so why worry about it?"

The club were slapped with the forfeit in the wake of last year's extra-time defeat to Portlaoise, a game so close it suggests their Leinster first-round win over Rhode of Offaly 11 days ago wasn't the upset it was said to be.


"No one within the club was surprised," said Keenan, a Dundalk-based bank official. "To be honest, last year was probably the first time we took the Leinster campaign as seriously as we should have -- and even then I'm not sure if we fully believed we could beat Portlaoise.

"But a few of us have won five county titles now. And the novelty -- for want of a better word -- has worn off a little bit. So we knew this year if we got through Louth, we'd take a good go at it."

Although Sarsfields are still without Dermot Earley, St Pat's will be outsiders again on Sunday. Kildare players like Gary White and Alan Smith were to the fore as Sarsfields reclaimed the county title they last won in 2005.

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They have no intention of stopping there either, as they revealed a structural plan that they hope will deliver an All-Ireland club title within 15 years.

"I know they had a bit to spare in the Kildare final," said Keenan. "We're just starting to get to see what they are like now -- we've a bit of work on that front. But they came out of Kildare, so they are obviously a good team.

"Going to Newbridge is not going to make it any easier and maybe there is a small advantage to be at home with travel and that sort of stuff, but we have played twice in Leinster at home and lost twice, so our record isn't great.

"If we play the way we can, we can win it, so we're not too worried about it at this stage. We're looking at ourselves."

The Lordship side have plenty of experience of their own. Keenan was an All Star in 2010 and is generally recognised as one of the best midfielders in the country. Former Louth stalwart and club captain Colin Goss still features, while the Finnegans, Dessie and Ray, have also played for the Wee County.

Danny O'Connor -- who grabbed the winning goal for the county in the Leinster championship against Westmeath earlier this year -- also lines out for the club, and Eoin O'Connor was captain of the Louth U-21 side that got to a Leinster final.

And in Armagh man Fergal Reel they have a manager who has experience of football at this time of year, having steered Monaghan side Doohamlet to an Ulster intermediate final in 2010.

"His experience is a help to us too. He knows how to approach these games because they are a little different to games in your own county," said Keenan. "There's an element of the unknown in it."

New Louth manager Aidan O'Rourke has already been in touch, but the St Pat's contingent are excused until their club commitments end -- and they hope they won't be drafted back for another while yet.

With Ballymun's win over Kilmacud Crokes on the Bank Holiday Monday in the Dublin championship final, Portlaoise -- who face Wicklow side St Patrick's on Sunday -- are narrow favourites for Leinster, but there are a number of good teams in the shake-up.

"I suppose there are several strong teams there but results are very hard to predict in this competition," said Keenan.

"We are looking at Sunday and we'll take it from there."

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