Keaney: ‘I used to think hurling and football was everything growing up’

ASK CONAL KEANEY what motivates him to keep plugging away with the club at 36 years of age and his answer is simple: “I just want to win.”

Conal Keaney pictured at Clanna Gael Fontenoy GAA in Dublin ahead of the AIB GAA Leinster Senior Hurling Championship final.

Source: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

Keaney may well extend his Dublin career into 2019, but for the moment his focus is on delivering a first provincial hurling title in the history of south side giants Ballyboden St Enda’s.

And it’s the lure of silverware that continues to drive Keaney. The centre-forward scored 0-4 in the county final replay win over Kilmacud Crokes, and 1-3 on their run to the Leinster final where they face Ballyhale Shamrocks later today.

The club were crowned All-Ireland football champions back in 2016 with Keaney at the forefront, but their last appearance in a Leinster final was 11 years ago. 

“I just want to win, I want to get on and win more and that’s enough of a motivation,” says Keaney.

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I don’t know if it’s a buzz, I just want to win, I want to win more than anyone. That’s probably the motivation I have to keep it going. I don’t want to let anything get in the way of that and if it does, it’ll be removed.

“I don’t want to be sounding like Conor McGregor but I just want to win. I know there’s not too many days left so do what you can to make sure you’re in a good place for the game (today). If you happen to play well, you play well, great and if you don’t, then you make sure you do your best on the day for someone else to play well.”

Conal Keaney celebrates after the Leinster semi-final win over Coolderry.

Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Keaney’s absolute commitment to the Ballyboden cause has seen him keep his honeymoon on the long finger. He got married in a couple of months ago and his plan following the Leinster final is to go “on holiday anyway.”

“I got married there in September and I haven’t done anything since so I’ll be going on honeymoon. I think a lot of lads are the same. It would be a very much welcome break and enjoy the Christmas and then (if you win) you’re not out until whenever it is, February, so you’ve a good bit of time to work on that.”

“It’s not an easy one to do,” he says about delaying his honeymoon as Ballyboden continued to progress in the championship.

No look, it’s fine, it is what it is and I’ve been like that for my whole life. Hurling is very important and where we are now is a big stage for the club and for everyone. So we need to make sure that it’s worth putting things off and the only thing that’s going to make it worth it is when you win.”

Off the field, Keaney runs an outdoor adventure centre in Wicklow in addition to his business in the Phoenix Park where he does bike rentals, tours and more. He’s been able to transfer his commitment to play top-level sport to the business world and build a successful company. 

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“I have a lot of stuff on the go. I think the busier you are, the better it is. Keep your mind busy and it does give you a bit of a headache at times but it can also give you a bit of time away from everything.

“I used to think hurling and football was everything growing up and it was only in the last seven, eight years that you realise that there’s life after hurling and football so you have to make sure that it is right too. It’s a good distraction as well, a lot of people wouldn’t have a clue if you get beaten or not so that’s good too.”

Keaney drives past Darragh Egerton, Darragh Egerton, John Kenny and Christopher Austin of Clonkill.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

How does he keep himself in such good shape in his mid-30s?

“I don’t know,” Keaney replies. “Just trying to be as good as you can everyday, try and train hard and do as much as you can away from the field. I haven’t done anything different. I just do the same things year after year and some days it’s good and some days it’s not good so we’ll find out (later today) if it’s good enough.

I won’t be hugely looking after myself but a little bit maybe. I think that’s a huge part of it but I think you need to have the motivation to want to do it more than anything and if you want to do it, you can do it.

“Once your fitness levels are there, it’s all fine but I think you really need to want to do it because when you get older, there’s an awful lot of things that come into it with work, or family or whatever and that takes up a lot of time. If you want it to take up a lot of time or you make time to play hurling. That’s the choices that you make.”

Joe Fortune’s side came two testing games against Kilmacud Crokes to win the Dublin title, beat Clonkill after extra-time on an emotional night in Parnell Park and saw off Coolderry after two bouts of extra-time in the last four clash.

But Keaney insists fatigue won’t be a factor when the take to the field against the Kilkenny kingpins this afternoon.

I don’t think fatigue will be an issue. I think the extra time we’ve had hurling will be good. It’s always hard this time of the year to get a good training session in because who do you play?

“You can only train amongst yourselves. The more games you get, the better. We may not have wanted the extra, extra minutes. But we got them and it’s good to have them under the belt. It’s given everyone that bit of confidence that you can hurl in these conditions and you can hurl against whoever it is. Ultimately we’ll find out (today).”

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