Although now in his second season on the Clare senior football panel, Kilmurry Ibrickane’s Keelan Sexton only turned 19 earlier this month.
Having completed his Leaving Certificate at Ennistymon CBS last month, Sexton, who has represented Ireland at boxing, has made a pivotal contribution this season, along with other youngsters including Pearse Lillis and Cian O’Dea.
Introduced six minutes before half-time against Sligo for the black-carded Podge Collins, Sexton kicked three points from play. Prior to that afternoon he had started all three of Clare’s championship games. He didn’t deny that he was disappointed not to start but his onfield response was exemplary.
“If you’re not disappointed at not starting, you shouldn’t be here. End of story. That’s the call the management made. We won the game. Not a problem. Anything that Colm (Collins) or Mick (Bohan) say, I’ll go with it. If they tell me to stand on the sideline for half an hour, I will. If they tell me to stand there for 50 minutes, I will. I just love playing football for Clare. Whether I get 10 or 20 minutes, I’ll put everything I have into it, no matter what,” Sexton told The Clare Champion.
Sexton has a clear approach to every game; he expects Clare to perform and to win.
“To be honest, coming up along, myself and Pearse (Lillis) weren’t used to losing. We wanted to win every game that we played. We went out last year with aspirations of winning a Munster minor title. It didn’t go well for us. We got beaten by Tipperary in the semi-final by a point but we were going out there to win. Colm, Mick and David (O’Brien) are filtering down the same attitude. The competitiveness at training is amazing and you need that if you want to progress.”
And he pointed to their second-half display against Sligo as proof of the approach.
“If you told us we were going to up there and put in a performance like that, we would have been happy. We went up to win and that’s the good thing about our mindset. We weren’t going up to shut up shop.”
If they beat Roscommon in Salthill tomorrow, Clare, already promoted to Division 2, will make the last eight for the first time since the qualifiers were introduced in 2001. Their win over Sligo was the first time the county has won two football qualifiers in the same season. “Once we came out of that league final dressing room, we said to ourselves we wanted to be back in Croke Park. We’re only win one from a quarter-final. Who is to say that Clare can’t get to an All-Ireland quarter-final? There is no rule that says that. We’re going to go out with aspirations of getting to a quarter-final.”
Clare manager Collins pointed to Sexton’s contribution from the bench last weekend as an example of their increasing options: “Keelan kicked some great scores. Obviously, he was disappointed not to have started but we’re at the stage with this team where there are 21 players that can be picked. For a change, we’ve a headache picking the team.”
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