Kavan Keenan the find of the season for Antrim senior footballers

Paddy McAleer’s text message changes Keenan’s sporting career

Antrim’s Kavan Keenan and Wicklow’s Matt Nolan in action during Sunday’s Allianz Football League Roinn 3 game at Corrigan Park in Belfast
Antrim’s Kavan Keenan in action against Wicklow’s Matt Nolan. The Ballymena man has had an outstanding first season with his county

KAVAN Keenan has been the find of the season in Antrim by some distance after coming under Andy McEntee’s radar during last year’s intermediate club championship.

Keenan may have thought his attacking abilities were what caught McEntee’s attention, but he was wrong.

After an in-house game, McEntee immediately saw the new recruit as a corner-back.

In his debut season, the 24-year-old has been one of the most consistent performers for Antrim, often being assigned the role of stopping the opposition’s best forward.

Keenan never played underage for his county – and it didn’t look as though he’d ever don the saffron jersey until he received a text from his All Saints club-mate Paddy McAleer.

“I had a couple of trials for Antrim and that was it, but never played,” Keenan said.

“I just played with my club, played a bit of soccer. Some boys bloom early, and some boys bloom late.

“I believe the contact [with Antrim] came about while we were playing St Theresa’s in the semi-final of the intermediate championship.

“I think I scored 2-2 that day with number 14 on my back. The next day I flew out to Australia. I got a text from Paddy McAleer after a couple of weeks out there saying that Andy was looking a chat if I was ever back home.

“I was back for four days in December, and I was at county training that Thursday.”

He added: “I was playing an in-house game and I was pressing a lot and Andy saw something in me and thought I could do a man-marking job and add a bit of pace from the back.

“I loved the professionalism of the set-up - it’s something I’ve never experienced really. There’s a great bunch of lads there and it’s more like a family than a team.”

Former Antrim player and All Saints clubman Peter McCann was initially surprised when he heard Keenan was being converted into a corner-back for Antrim, but immediately saw the merit in it.

“I couldn’t understand him playing the corner-back role,” McCann said, “but I’ve watched him a few times this year and it really suits him.

“It’s not like a typical corner-back role nowadays, where you mark your man and you do nothing else. He’ll bomb forward. His fitness levels are amazing.

“Kavan always had the attributes to be a good county player because you give him a role and he doesn’t have to do any more other than his job, whereas sometimes at club level players like him might feel they have to do everything. I think it suits him better than playing club football. There are some players like that.”

While Keenan harboured ambitions of one day playing for Antrim, he always was sceptical about the time commitments required.

“I always looked up to the likes of Paddy McAleer and Sean McVeigh (both All Saints clubmen) but I often thought is it worth putting all that time into it?

“It proved me wrong, 110 percent. If your goal is to play high-level Gaelic football, you have to play for your county. If you want to make the most of your playing days, your county is where you’re going to progress most.”

Keenan hasn’t given up hope of one day moving to Australia with his family but for now he’s getting immense enjoyment from playing with his county.

Antrim V Down at Corrigan Park. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN
Downs Liam Kerr and Antrim's Kavan Keenan. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN (Mal McCann)