INTERVIEW | Paddy Keenan on his retirement, Louth’s progress and St Pat’s
All-Star midfielder speaks to Dundalk Sport’s Gavin McLaughlin
Louth will meet Tipperary at Croke Park tomorrow looking to win the Allianz National Football League Division Three title for the first time since 2011.
Paddy Keenan was captain the last time the Wee County lifted the trophy six years ago, the All-Star midfielder climbing the steps of the Hogan Stand to collect the cup after Louth’s win over Westmeath.
Keenan retired from inter-county football three years later and speaking at the launch of the Cross Cooley Challenge at CX+Sport during the week, he told Dundalk Sport that there is a little part of him that misses big occasions like Saturday’s at GAA HQ.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss playing at Croke Park and on Championship days in front of big crowds,” he said.
“Do I miss the nine months of pre-season before you play in the Championship? Not exactly,” he smiled.
“It’s a young man’s game at this stage,” he added. “Lads who are young, single and at college and don’t have constraints on them like work and family.
“From my own point of view, the body was struggling in the last year or two with Louth from different injuries I picked up throughout the years and I didn’t feel like I could do myself or the team justice by continuing on.
“I was happy enough to step away at the right time. I got married the year after and we were able to do a bit of travelling which I wouldn’t have been able to do before that so it was good to get that chance.
“I don’t regret it, but when it’s Championship time and the sun shines then you do miss it.”
It took Louth some time to recover from losing experienced players — and big personalities — like Keenan, John O’Brien and Shane Lennon.
Manager Colin Kelly, however, has formed a youthful, vibrant side that has gone on to win back-to-back promotions, leaving Keenan highly impressed by what he has seen.
“They’re certainly doing alright!” he said. “It will be a good test against Tipperary in Saturday’s final and that will hopefully give them a good lift going into the Leinster Championship.
“They’ve some very talented players coming through and any of the sounds coming out of the camp is positive and the indications are that things are going well.
“It seems to be a tight-knit bunch and that bodes well for the future so you have to hand it to Colin Kelly.”
His inter-county career may be over but Keenan is still an integral player for his club, St Patrick’s, and he said the Lordship outfit are determined to bounce back after a poor campaign last year that saw them narrowly escape relegation to the intermediate championship.
“Last year was very disappointing, especially as we were going for three-in-a-row after winning the senior championship in the previous two years. But that’s put to rest now. It’s a new season and there’s a lot of younger lads coming through,” he continued.
“Some of the older hands haven’t fully come back yet as they are still playing with Bellurgan United and that has given some of the young lads a chance and an opportunity to cement a place in the team.
“It’s going well so far. We’ve won our three games in the Paddy Sheelan Cup and we play against the Clans in a quarter-final this weekend so that’s another chance to see where we’re at.
“It’s still early days yet but the mood is good. Davey Nelson, the manager, is really good and the lads have responded to him well so hopefully, that continues.”