by Adam Moynihan
Former Killarney Celtic and current Treaty United player Matt Keane is hopeful that Kerry will be able to field a senior League of Ireland team “sooner rather than later”.
Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser ahead of this evening’s preseason friendly between his new and previous clubs, Keane said that local players need a platform to prove themselves at the highest level. In his view, having a senior Kerry team competing in the LOI is the perfect pathway.
“There’s good work being done underage by people like Billy Dennehy and others,” Keane said. “The U17s got to a national final a couple of years ago and the U19s won a lot of their games last year. Hopefully, in the next year or two, Kerry will have a senior League of Ireland team. I think it needs to happen, and the sooner it happens the better.”
The Kilcummin man is looking forward to his second year in the LOI after establishing himself as an important player during Treaty’s debut season in the First Division. Having seen the standard up close, he is certain that more budding Kerry footballers can follow in his footsteps.
“More Kerry players could make that step up, definitely. But they have to experience the higher level and then push on. When you’re training at a professional level and playing top-class players every week, that’s only going to improve your game.
“There is definitely the potential for more Kerry players to play League of Ireland, but there needs to be an environment and a platform for that to happen. It cuts off at U19s now in Kerry and then fellas are thinking, “what am I going to do?”, and maybe they go back playing GAA. Something needs to be done to give players in Kerry that opportunity to play League of Ireland.”
On a personal level, Keane admitted that it took some time to acclimatise to the LOI, but ultimately he was pleased with his first season as a semi-pro.
“I think I played in every game throughout the season so I was happy enough with that. It was definitely a massive step up. The first few games especially, we were going up to Tolka Park and places like that and I was kind of going, “jeez, will I ever get up to speed?” You’d be blowing after the matches.
“But I think around the second round of games I started getting into it, and by the third round of games I felt like I had been doing it for a couple of years. I suppose I gradually built myself up to the standard.”
Under manager Tommy Barrett, Treaty were very much entering unknown territory in 2021 but the Limerick club gave a fine account of themselves. Keane is confident that he and his teammates can build on that experience and continue to improve into 2022.
“Last season was very good. There wasn’t much expected of us at the start of the year but we ended up getting a playoff spot. And we were very unlucky in the playoffs. We lost 3-0 at home to UCD – they picked us off for two goals at the end when we went gung ho, but we felt we were as good as them. Then in the second leg we were 2-0 up and looked like getting a third, but we got a man sent off with half an hour to go, so that was a killer. They ended up getting promoted so it shows how close we are.
“We’ve made some good signings this year, bringing in a couple of Premier-standard players. We’ll be hoping to at least make the playoffs again, but we know it’s going to be very tough going up against the likes of Cork City, Waterford and Galway.”
As part of their preparations for the new campaign, Treaty are visiting Keane’s old stomping ground tonight (7.30pm) to take on Kerry District League kingpins Killarney Celtic. Brian Spillane’s side are midway through their own domestic season and they are strong favourites to win their fourth Kerry league title in a row. They recently gave Treaty’s rivals Cork City a game before succumbing to a respectable 3-1 defeat.
It's safe to say that Celtic are the dominant force in Kerry at the moment and some of their players would surely relish the opportunity of joining Keane in the LOI. While accepting that his former team are leading the way in Kerry, Keane reiterated that if players are to push on, they need an appropriate pathway to do so.
“Yeah, I suppose Celtic are out in front,” the 25-year-old teacher said. “They have some very good players – players who I think would be capable of playing League of Ireland. You see there some weekends Celtic are beating teams 5-0 or 6-0. To be honest, I don’t think that’s going to push any player on.
“But it’s tough for a player in Kerry to push on to League of Ireland anyway when there are no local clubs playing at that level.
“Hopefully now with all the work being done at underage, Kerry can get a League of Ireland team so that every local player has that platform to step up.”
Popularity of Ladies Gaelic Football on the rise
According to official TAM Ireland figures, 491,000 tuned into TG4’s coverage of the TG4 Ladies Football finals on Sunday with an average audience of 204,900 people watching the live broadcast […]
According to official TAM Ireland figures, 491,000 tuned into TG4’s coverage of the TG4 Ladies Football finals on Sunday with an average audience of 204,900 people watching the live broadcast of the Senior Final between Meath and Kerry.
The match had a 30.6% share of viewing among individuals. Viewing peaked at 5.10pm with 279,800 viewers as Meath closed in on the two in a row to retain the Brendan Martin Cup.
A total 46,400 attended the match in person in Croke Park on Sunday, the first TG4 Ladies Football Final to have full capacity allowance since 2019.
Viewers from over 50 countries tuned into the finals on the TG4 Player with 14,000 streams of the game from international viewers. Over 20,000 streams were also registered from Irish viewers.
TG4 Director General Alan Esslemont said: “My deepest gratitude to all the counties especially Wexford and Kerry who battled to the end through this season’s Championship, hearty congratulations to both Laois and Meath and I am really looking forward to the re-match of Antrim and Fermanagh which will be carried live on TG4. A special word of thanks goes to the huge crowd which travelled to the Finals from all the corners of Ireland. County Meath especially have become a role model for other counties in how to build huge attending support for LGFA in both genders and at all ages. Sunday’s massive expression of Meath ‘fandom’ in Croke Park brought their county the greatest credit.
Sunday’s broadcast was the 22nd edition of the TG4 Ladies Gaelic Football Championship, a unique history of a sport minoritized by society being championed by a language media minoritized by the state. By consciously standing together we have grown together. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the LGFA in 2024 let us all hope by that time that we are even further along the road towards true equality of opportunity for both Ladies Gaelic Football and Irish language media.”
Following her World Championships debut, Leahy is hungry for more
Adam Moynihan met Killarney sprinter Sarah Leahy at the Killarney Valley AC Arena to chat about her recent appearance at the World Championships, her goals for the rest of the year, and a very special pair of socks
Hi Sarah. Thanks for showing me around Killarney Valley’s facilities. It’s an impressive set-up.
The track facilities here are perfect. We have everything we need and Killarney Valley are always looking to improve the facilities and the club itself. All the people behind the scenes at are the MVPs, people like Jerry and Tomás Griffin, Jean Courtney, and Bríd Stack to mention just a few.
You recently competed in the World Championships in Oregon as part of the Irish 4 x 100m relay team, finishing eighth in your heat. How did you feel the event went for you?
We’re very proud of each other, and we did well, but we definitely could have run better. We had more. We were aiming for and felt we were capable of running a national record. But on the day, it just didn’t happen.
Personally, it was a great experience. I loved every second of it. But I will admit that the actual running part is a bit of a blur. I came onto the track and there’s this huge stadium, but I was more looking around at the people I was running against. Ewa Swoboda – I thought she’d win the World Indoor – she was four people away from me and I was looking at her… She was probably like, ‘Why is this woman staring at me?’ I was very nervous. But it was still amazing and I hope I can do it again.
The fact that I was running against international athletes that have been to the Olympics and been finalists, I was kind of star struck. My trainers are like, okay Sarah, calm down. You’re meant to be here. Don’t act like you shouldn’t.
Can you describe your mindset before a race? Do you often get nervous?
On the line it’s all about how you’re feeling, what you can do. You just have to get mentally prepared for a good start. Especially for me. Get out, and run as fast as you can. Just getting in the zone, I guess. I’ll know if I’m not in the zone, because I’m thinking of other things. If I’m on the blocks my head shouldn’t be wandering. It should be blank and all I should be waiting for is that gun.
Would you say that you’re an ultra competitive person?
I’m a competitive person, obviously. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be competing at this level. But I also come from a team background, and I’m friends with a lot of these girls, so I want them to do well as well. And if they happen to beat me, fair play. You put in the training, you did very well. I’m very happy for you.
We all kind of get prepared differently. A lot of people for the warm-up, which is an hour or half an hour before the race, have the earphones on, gameface on, not talking to anyone, not smiling at anyone. I’m completely different. The more nervous I am, the more I’m going to talk.
There was a situation in Greece where everyone had their earphones on and I was mad to talk to everyone. That could change but as of right now I do tend to talk a lot. And then, going on to the track, obviously there’s no more talking. You’re getting ready for the race and mentally preparing.
Tell me about the socks you wore in Oregon.
[laughs] My socks were a Valentine’s Day gift from my boyfriend, Daniel. They had his face all over them and they say ‘I love you’. So yeah, I just ran the Worlds with my boyfriend’s face on my feet. He was delighted!
Daniel was the person who pushed for me to go back to running. He knew I was no longer enjoying the football and he heard the way I spoke about athletics. He helped me make the decision to go back. It was the best decision so it was only right I wore the socks and he was there in some way. I probably wouldn’t have been there without him.
Did you have some of your own supporters over there?
Yes, my mom and dad (Marie and Mike) actually travelled over. They spent the week and it was unreal to have them there. And then my cousins from Vancouver in Canada drove down which was I think over 10 hours. I was actually warming up before the relay and then I saw and heard my family with all their Kerry jerseys, Irish jerseys, Irish flags, roaring my name. That was really nice.
What’s the plan for the rest of 2022?
I was hopeful that we were going to send a 4 x 100 relay team to the Europeans but I just got an email saying that we wouldn’t, which is disappointing. I know some of top 2022 female sprinters aren’t available but some are and with any of them we would do well over there. We would be competitive. We held our qualification of being in the top 16 teams all summer so it’s a pity that, at the last second, we aren’t going.
In saying that, the women’s Irish relay will continue to work hard and we have a lot more to give. We will prove that next year.
You’re moving to Dublin for work later this year. How will this affect your training?
I might have to change coaches again, which I’m a bit sad about because I really liked the Limerick training group (Leahy was in UL where she trained with the Hayley and Drew Harrison). I think I performed well and I loved the training. I was surrounded by the right people who were really lovely. I hope to find a group like that in Dublin and keep running well and performing better.
And what about next season?
I’d like another good indoor season. I was talking to Lauren Roy in Stockholm and she told me that I have the European standard in the 60m from last year. Which I didn’t know! So that’s kind of in my head now to try and get there, to improve my time. I think I could actually run faster. I ran 7.39 and I’d like to run at least 7.30, hopefully get another European standard, and actually go to the Europeans. I think it’s in Germany. That’d be my target.
And then next summer, there’s the Worlds again. So it’d be nice to continue making the Irish relays and definitely improve my time, because there’s more. I can definitely run faster over 100.
What is your current PB in the 100m? Are you close to bettering it?
I ran 11.67, which I was delighted with. But it was my first run of the season. It’s quite rare that you run a PB in the season opener. But I ran it, and I haven’t ran it since. The closest was 11.70 in Switzerland. So I definitely think there’s more in there. And I think I have a lot to learn as well. I’m still new to the sport and I’m a powerful kind of runner. I was doing a lot of gym work at the beginning of the year, before I ran my PB, and then afterwards usually people taper it off. So I did what other people do. I think that affected my running a little bit. I’m slightly weaker. So I’ve learned that maybe next year I shouldn’t do that. Then hopefully I’ll be running PB after PB, instead of just a one-off.
Onwards and upwards. Chat to you again soon.
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