In time, we may all be indebted to the work of Donal Keogan.
Gaelic football supporters will know him as the Meath joint-captain who, despite wearing number six, set up two goals against Carlow in the Leinster championship and another against Laois.
They talked on The Sunday Game after the Laois game of Keogan being ‘underrated’ though, in truth, Meath supporters have been saying for years that he’s a rare talent.
“To me, Donal Keogan would have got on every single Meath All-Ireland winning team in defence, he absolutely would have,” claimed Meath luminary Trevor Giles in 2016.
Yet, it’s Keogan’s work away from football that may ultimately stand the test of time and emerge as his true legacy. He works developing treatments for antibiotic resistant bacteria, basically figuring out how to kill off superbugs that are, apparently, an increasing problem.
“Antibiotic resistance, if you talk to anyone nowadays, it’s pretty much the hot topic in science,” said Keogan, who completed a PhD in the area last year. “It’s kind of scary the figures that are being thrown out there at the minute, in terms of the percentage of the bacteria that are resistant to antibiotic X or Y. So it is a bit scary, that if you go into hospital with a normal infection you think it should be easy to cope with, maybe get a prescription and an antibiotic and within a week it should be fine, but that’s not happening anymore.
It’s getting harder and harder to kill these bacteria, so you need new antibiotics to combat the resistance and that’s what we’re working on.
With that as his day job, you might imagine that devising a plan to prevent Dublin winning Sunday’s Leinster final should be relatively easy. Keogan laughs at the suggestion and shakes his head.
Yet, there is a quiet confidence that an improving Meath can at least be competitive after winning nine of their 11 league and championship games so far this year. Avoiding injuries to key players — something that has been partly attributed to the work of fitness expert John Coghlan — has been central to the surge in form as has, according to Keogan, the addition of coach Colm Nally.
“He’s been a breath of fresh air in terms of his coaching and his training,” said Keogan of Nally’s input. “The confidence we gained from the league and winning games, we won six out of seven in the group and you do take encouragement from that. I think it’s just confidence, belief in the set up and the game plan and each other. I’m playing beside two lads in the half-back line and I believe in them and they believe in me and we are there to back each other up as well. The performances have reflected that belief. In another year we might have crumbled.”
Dublin, with 20 wins from 20 games in Leinster under Jim Gavin, will present a different challenge entirely. Keogan wasn’t around in 2010 when Meath put five goals past Pat Gilroy’s Dubs, so has never experienced a league or championship win over them, but he knows how it might feel, having gorged himself on footage of the Meath-Dublin four-in-a-row games of 1991 as a kid.
“I remember one summer I used to watch them over and over again,” he said. “I don’t know why I was so fascinated with those four games, I just remember one year watching it non-stop, I could nearly recite the commentary. It was great football.”
The Rathkenny man is careful not to predict a repeat win, but is confident that after five years away from the provincial decider, Meath are on an upward curve.
“We have helped ourselves in terms of being more consistent, that was one of our main pitfalls in the last couple of years, our inconsistency, and we really tried to hone in on that and bring a new level of consistency to each game,” he said.