Keaney commits to Dublin hurlers

BALLYBODEN St Enda’s manager Liam Hogan has warned Dublin hurling supporters to be patient with Conal Keaney as he renews his inter-county career.

Keaney informed Pat Gilroy and Anthony Daly of his decision to quit the Dublin football panel for the hurlers — six years after he elected to focus all of his attention on the big ball code — on Wednesday night.

Daly was understandably delighted to have the former All Star nominee available to him for the 2011 season.

“He’ll be a great addition and it’s a very serious boost for Dublin hurling. He looks a very good player.”

However, while describing it as a “great day for hurling in the county,” Hogan has cautioned against any huge expectations that Keaney can immediately emulate his scintillating form shown in the early noughties.

“There is never a day I see Conal Keaney without a hurley in his hand,” said the Offaly native.

“Anyone who’s been around the Firhouse Road would see him training away or at the hurling wall on his own or with his friends David Curtin and Emmett Carroll.

“Mind you, it’s still going to take him a while to get back to where he was.

“His performance for us against O’Loughlin Gaels in the Leinster semi-final a couple of months ago was worth the admission price alone into Nowlan Park but there’s a big difference between club and county hurling.

“And he knows that.”

Keaney had been reduced to a substitute’s role with Gilroy’s footballers by the end of last season and had always intended returning to play for the hurlers. Hogan doesn’t want to second guess Daly but he reckons Keaney will be assigned the full-forward position come Leinster championship time.

“If Ryan O’Dwyer turns out to be the centre-forward everybody interested in Dublin hurling hopes he will be, I’d see Conal at the edge of the square.

“That’s up to Anthony Daly, of course, but Conal is the type of player who can do a job anywhere. More supporters are going to go and watch the hurlers now he is playing again.

“He’s just a superb athlete, a great basketballer, footballer and hurler. He can try his hand at anything. This is just great news for hurling in the county.”

Daly was fulsome in his praise for Keaney who returned to the hurling set-up at training last night.

“I remember going to see him pre-2004 when he was still with the Dublin hurlers in a qualifier game in Parnell Park and even as a young fella, he stood out.

“He had a lot of natural ability and hopefully he’s kept his touch over the winter. He looks a quality hurler, he has that athleticism and wins his own ball.”

Daly acknowledged competition in the Dublin forward line has now been ramped up with Keaney’s re-introduction to the panel.

“You look at Ryan O’Dwyer coming in there and now with Conal, the Dublin forward line is going to be a tough one to get into and that’s what we want — everybody fighting for their jersey from one to 15. It’s going to push everyone harder to get a place in the team.”

Meanwhile, Eoghan O’Gara will line out for Dublin in their O’Byrne Cup opener against Westmeath on Sunday — despite saying last weekend he was unlikely to be available for the pre-season competition. The full-forward told journalists that he didn’t expect to play in the O’Byrne Cup because of playing commitments with Tallaght IT.

However, Pat Gilroy has named the Templeogue/Synge Street man in what is for the most part an experimental team that will travel to Mullingar. The line-up has just three of the team that lost to Cork in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final — O’Gara, Stephen Cluxton and Ger Brennan.

Gilroy has had to play without 28 of his squad who are unavailable due to injury and club and college commitments.

Four of last year’s victorious All-Ireland U21 team — Nicky Devereux, Seán Murray, Darragh Nelson and Darragh Stapleton — are given a chance to impress.

The likes of Paul Casey and Kevin Bonner — who figured in the Dublin team more regularly under Paul Caffrey — have also been handed an opportunity to prove their worth.

DUBLIN (SF v Westmeath): S Cluxton; N Devereux, S Murray, D Nelson; P Casey, G Brennan, D Daly; C Murphy, K Bonner; A Hubbard, T Quinn, D Kelly; D Stapleton, E O’Gara, K McManamon.

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