Eoghan O’Donnell says veteran Dublin colleague Conal Keaney could be the county’s greatest ever hurling servant. Keaney is still a key player for Dublin at 36 having returned from retirement last year and has enjoyed two strong Championship campaigns.
O’Donnell described the man they call ‘granddad’ in training as the ultimate Championship player as he’s conjured his best form in both 2018 and 2019 during the summertime. Keaney struck three points in the closing minutes of the Leinster SHC game against Galway to secure a famous win, and set up Sunday’s preliminary All-Ireland quarter-final tie with Laois.
“He absolutely is someone you really look up to, he might be one of the greatest servants of Dublin hurling ever,” said O’Donnell.
“There’s a joke around that Lee Gannon, a very good up and coming player from my own club, Whitehall, he’s in with us and he was born around the year that Keaney made his debut for Dublin.
That’s just exceptional, for Keaney to still be playing. He is the granddad of the team, is the joke.
Ex-Dublin footballer Keaney didn’t light up the 2018 league under Pat Gilroy but was a key figure come the Championship and sat out this year’s spring campaign following shoulder surgery. But, again, he has been there in the big Championship games and is expected to play a key role against Laois.
“I think that comes with experience, that he knows not to wear his body out,” said O’Donnell, an injury doubt for the game with hamstring trouble.
Laois, who won the Joe McDonagh Cup last weekend, view Sunday’s game as a huge chance to pull off a famous win. They only lost to Dublin by two points when they met in the league at Parnell Park.
Dublin have played their best hurling at Parnell Park, beating Waterford and Galway there this year and also drawing with Wexford. Tipperary great Nicky English complained about Dublin’s home before the Championship began, claiming it’s too small and possibly even unfair on visiting teams.
“Sometimes I think Dublin can’t win — we’re not allowed play in Croker, we’re not allowed play in Parnell Park. I don’t know where we’re going to play!” said O’Donnell, who acknowledged a further point made by English that to win the big prizes Dublin ultimately need to play well on the bigger Croke Park pitch.
“That is a fair point as well, because Croke Park obviously is the biggest of big and it’s a special place. To win an All-Ireland you have to perform in Croke Park. We’ve played a lot of games in Croke Park. We played there in the league last year, it’s something you relish.”