Waterford keeper Stephen O’Keeffe: Working in Dublin will ease the pressure ahead of final

Stephen O'Keeffe gets away from a Cork attacker during Sunday's All-Ireland hurling semi final. Pic: Sportsfile

Waterford goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe is looking forward to the All-Ireland hurling final clash with Galway, obviously — but living and working in Dublin will insulate him from much of the build-up.

“Everyone’s different when it comes to something like the build-up to a big game,” he said.

“For me, I’ll be working in Dublin five days out of seven for each of the three weeks coming up to it, so I’ll be fairly well removed from it.

“Some people thrive on that kind of thing — chatting to lads on the street and so on, while others will avoid that like the plague.

“Each to their own, but it’s new territory for all of us.”

Is that the ideal balance given the level of hype people are expecting in Waterford?

“For me it’s handy. There wouldn’t be too much talk about it. One or two lads at work would be interested in the game, they’d come up and chat to you about it, but you’re expected to knuckle down and do your work as soon as you’re in.

“A lot of people would be acting — genuinely — as though nothing has happened, and that can be good as well.”

O’Keeffe wasn’t beaten for a goal last Sunday by Cork and was delighted with the clean sheet: “Absolutely — that’s something every ‘keeper wants with every single game, but in fairness I didn’t have much to do... The backs were superb all through, Darragh Fives cleared ball after ball and really kept the pressure off us. But a clean sheet is a clean sheet. You’d be happy with it.”

Fives operated in the sweeper role given the absence of the suspended Tadhg de Burca. The missing defender’s appeals saga never affected his team-mates’ focus, said O’Keeffe.

“I can only speak for myself, obviously, but I don’t think it ever really became a distraction. Obviously he’s a huge player for us and a massive leader on the field of play, we wanted him to play but we never got carried away with pinning our hopes on that happening. We put our heads down and carried on training ourselves — there was no point in worrying about something we couldn’t do anything about.

“That was our attitude, and knowing we had someone of the calibre of Darragh (Fives) coming in to do that job, he’s a great player in his own right so we weren’t worried.”

O’Keeffe stressed the importance for Waterford of ending the season on a positive, and paid tribute to his teammates for sticking to their game-plan throughout Sunday’s clash.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet that we’re in an All-Ireland final, to be honest. The feeling is . . . you’d be almost floating around the place but I’m absolutely delighted, obviously.

“I think the sending-off last Sunday opened the game up certainly, but I also thought we stuck to what we were good at.

“We worked the ball through the lines and when we had a bit of a lead late on we were able to stick with that — we cleared ball after ball until the final whistle.

“But we also kept looking for the right pass, and we got those two extra goals in the last couple of minutes. That really sealed the deal.”

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