Saturday 23 February 2019

Treviso-bound Keatley leaves with his head held high

Munster's Ian Keatley leaves the province as the second all-time points scorer. Photo: Luke Walker/Sportsfile
Munster's Ian Keatley leaves the province as the second all-time points scorer. Photo: Luke Walker/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Attempting to follow in the footsteps of the best out-half that Munster has ever produced was going to be a nigh on impossible task, yet the fact that Ian Keatley will leave the province as the second all-time points scorer speaks volumes for the impact that he made in his eight-year spell.

The 31-year-old was in and out of the team last season until the signing of Joey Carbery last summer suggested that his time in Limerick was coming to an end.

Keatley hasn't started a game yet this season and has only featured four times off the bench, but the recent memories should not cloud what he brought to Munster in the earlier days when he was attempting to fill the huge void Ronan O'Gara left behind.

There were the 21 points that Keatley scored against his former club Leinster in 2014, which remains the last victory that Munster have achieved in Dublin against their old foes.

Or there was the stunning last-gasp drop goal against Sale two weeks later that snatched a crucial Champions Cup victory.

There were tough days as well, however, and the disgraceful booing that Keatley was subjected to in Thomond Park against Leicester a year later is a particularly sour note. There is no question that he deserved better.

The Dubliner, who also played 77 times for Connacht, scoring 688 points, won the last of his seven Ireland caps in November 2017. He brings the curtain down on an international career that saw him win a Six Nations medal in 2015 as well as all seven games he featured in.

You don't play 180 times for a team like Munster unless you are a good player and scoring 1,247 points is remarkable achievement.

Keatley will move to Italy in the summer where he will join Benetton, who have bagged themselves a top professional.

He leaves Munster and Ireland with his head held high.

Irish Independent

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