Sammon hails hero Keane as SPL sparks into life
CONOR SAMMON couldn't believe what he was seeing when he flicked on Sky Sports News on Monday. Just 24 hours later, the Dublin-born Kilmarnock striker couldn't believe what he was doing.
The ex-UCD and Derry City man was pleasantly surprised by the arrival of Robbie Keane into the Scottish Premier League, given that it multiplied the hype surrounding Celtic's visit to Rugby Park on Tuesday evening.
What he didn't expect was that the occasion would coincide with a notable personal landmark. The 23-year-old's four previous meetings with Celtic ended in defeat.
But the most high-profile encounter of the lot ended in an unlikely victory and three Irishmen playing their part, with Sammon a prominent second-half substitute along with new boy Rob Kiernan while Trim's Tim Clancy started from right back and helped set up the match-winning goal. It was a special evening for the relegation strugglers.
"I was watching Sky Sports News on Monday like most football fans," said Sammon. "Once we heard about Robbie Keane, myself and Tim (Clancy) phoned each other and we were just saying how amazing it was.
"Robbie's a legend in my eyes, and Tim's eyes, and every other Irish boy, I think. We look up to him. He's the Irish captain and a role model so to get the chance to play on the same pitch as him was a great honour. And to go and beat them on the day was even better."
"All the times I've played against Celtic, we've done ok but never come close to actually beating them. There was a lot of hype before this game with their new boys, but we were all very excited about it and I thought we defended very well. We hung in there, and it's a massive three points."
The bigger picture for Sammon is that Keane's stint in Scotland will remind people about the Irish players plying their trade in that neck of the woods. It can only be good for the profile of a league which has flagged during his 18 months at the club after moving from Derry.
"When I first moved over, there were big players coming in. Rangers had signed Steve Davis, Pedro Mendes and guys like that. Celtic had signed (Georgios) Samaras and then it went into a bit of a lull. Robbie is good for the league as a whole because playing against lads like that is only going to improve the likes of ourselves."
Certainly, given what has happened at Derry, Sammon is appreciative that he is making a living from the game in his new home. With 18 months remaining on his contract, he is hoping to push on under new boss Jimmy Calderwood after becoming frustrated under the previous regime.
"It has been hard to see what happened at Derry, I still keep in touch with what goes on at home and I thought the title race last year was brilliant with Rovers pushing Bohs like they did," he said. "But I'm very fortunate to be playing here in the SPL."