Wednesday 17 July 2019

This chance may never come again - Model man O'Keeffe

Diarmuid O’Keeffe was named the PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month for June after two excellent displays against Kilkenny. Photo: Sportsfile
Diarmuid O’Keeffe was named the PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month for June after two excellent displays against Kilkenny. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Getting his feet back down to earth after a magical Leinster triumph isn't easy but Wexford star Diarmuid O'Keeffe is well aware that an opportunity like this mightn't come around again.

Securing the Bob O'Keeffe Cup evoked euphoric scenes across Wexford but it also yielded a place in the last four and having spent his inter-county career in the hurling wilderness, with no silverware to show for his efforts, the midfield dynamo has every intention of striking while the iron is hot.

Sportspeople regularly talk about living in the moment and with the Model county now two victories away from a rare All-Ireland success, O'Keeffe plans to make the most of their privileged position.

"It might never come around again. I'm 27 now. It's only the other day when I started. It was 2012 when Liam Dunne brought me in. I was only 20 at the time and you think you have loads of time and you don't," O'Keeffe says.

"It passes by very quickly. I remember Éanna Martin - who is now 32 - was 25 and I was driving back to Dublin with him one night and he says, 'Deeo, it passes like that (clicks his fingers)'. You have to focus on the here and now as the chance might never come across you again."

The Model men toasted their Leinster final victory but they were back training on the Thursday following their historic defeat of Kilkenny and O'Keeffe believes that Davy Fitzgerald has already been able to get his squad to refocus on the next challenge.


"It's new. While it's great and all that, celebrating it, it's something that we have to just say, 'Right, let's block it out, we have a job to do here, we're in an All-Ireland semi-final'.

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"If we get knocked out the next day then the previous game isn't going to mean as much, you know what I mean, you still have to build on your performance every day. He's pretty good at just reining everything in and getting focused on the things that we're good at."

The St Anne's clubman - a secondary school teacher in St Peter's, Dunboyne - has blossomed in purple and gold in recent seasons and much of that is down to Fitzgerald's influence.

Since the Clare native came to the sunny south east for the 2017 season, O'Keeffe has excelled and he collected the PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month for June after two masterful displays against the Cats which saw him shoot six points.

With Kevin Foley sitting back as sweeper, O'Keeffe is given creative licence to drift forward and he feels their deployment of an extra defender has been totally vindicated despite the criticism.

"We could see that we were at a competitive level playing the way we're playing so why not continue playing that way. Davy's the boss, he makes the decisions. I actually enjoy playing it," he says.

"It gives a bit of freedom and a licence to move forward and stuff while you have the cover from Kevin at the back. More traditional hurlers prefer to play 15 on 15 and lump the ball forward.

"We're just not playing that game. I personally wouldn't (hear any abuse from the stands) but the subs, when they're sitting in the stand, would say 'there's lads up there that are really giving it to us', but it doesn't matter to us."

While his eyes are firmly fixed on hurling for the moment - as well as correcting state exams for the summer - O'Keeffe has a career break planned for the winter where he will depart for south east Asia and Australia/New Zealand.

Much talk has centred on this possibly being Fitzgerald's last year on Slaneyside but O'Keeffe has little interest in speculation and only wants to concentrate on what they can control themselves.

"Davy is really a character who has taught us to live in the moment and focus on the here and now. I mean this, I genuinely don't think he's thinking of next year," he says.

"He's thinking of the next two and a half weeks. Whether he decides to continue his role as manager, or not, that really is something to think about at another time.

"The best opportunity that you have is the opportunity that's right in front of your eyes now. That's literally two weeks away. I don't think any player is kind of thinking of the next year.

"You're thinking of the here and now and focusing on that. You're trying to make hay when the time is right."

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