Five years ago, Kevin Keane was looking forward to hopefully a long summer of minor football in the green and red of Mayo. That summer brought him all the way to Croke Park on All Ireland final day and ultimately a heartbreaking defeat to Tyrone in a final replay in Longford. Since then Keane has worked his way though the ranks of the u21s and up to a starting spot in the senior final against Donegal last September. The Westport native and Sligo IT student was in McHale Park this week to launch this year’s Electric Ireland All Ireland minor championships, and he puts what he learned playing in the minor championship five years ago as one of the major reasons he is where he is today in the game. “Back in 2008, it was a great honour to represent your county first and foremost and then to go on to where we got, was just amazing. It was a huge stepping stone looking back on it now, getting to represent Mayo as a senior footballer. It was a great level to learn your trade as a footballer, which is what it’s all about really in developing you as a footballer. I was lucky enough to win a Connacht title and get to an All Ireland final in Croke Park, which at 18 years of age is one of the most amazing things you can ever do as a footballer, especially when you’re only 18.”
With only 16 days left to go until Mayo make the journey to Salthill to take on Galway in this years championship opener, that’s where all of Keane’s concentration is on. “Training is going well at the minute, it’s a kind of hard phase of training, but we’re really looking forward to it, it’s going to be a big test. Any Mayo team that’s gone there in recent years hasn’t got anything easy at all. Whether they are gunning for us or what, I don’t know, but we’ve only one focus and that’s May 19. It’s a huge challenge, but hopefully we’ll be able to pull out all the stops and put in a big performance.”
Still learning each year
Last year was Keane’s first year as starter in the senior side and made the corner back position his own over the season. His sophomore year hasn’t been such an easy ride and he hasn’t seen as much game time as he’d like, but he’s chomping at the bit to reclaim the starting berth. “Looking back on last year it went kind of well for me, but this year it’s taken a different tide with things. It’s a work in process and I’m working really hard on my game and it’s coming together nicely. It’s a big opportunity and in three weeks time and I’ll hopefully get to take it. I suppose I didn’t see an awful lot of time but any time I got some I did OK, except maybe for the Dublin game, I suppose it could have gone a bit better, but it’s all a learning curve at the end of the day. It was a mixed bag over all for us as a team, but we still ended up getting to a league semi-final, which is a good thing.” Not playing can be hard to deal with, Keane says, but it does spur him on to do all he can to ensure he’s there come May 19. “It’s a bit of both I suppose, it can be difficult at times, but there are reasons for it when you’re not playing, be it football or fitness issues. It drives you on too, and being where I was last year I know I can get there again, rather than thinking why am I not there.”
The build up for the first big game of summer is ratcheting up as the days tick down and Keane will be ready to give his all down by The Prom in Galway in two Sunday’s time, if he’s given the call.