Keith Ward's ‘up and down’ relationship with Stephen Kenny

Keith Ward, as adept at retailing a good yarn as he is at delivering a through ball, is recalling his “up and down” relationship with Stephen Kenny when the then Dundalk manager was kicking off his Oriel Park revolution and Ward was part — but, as it turned out, not a big part — of a glorious era in the making.
Keith Ward's ‘up and down’ relationship with Stephen Kenny

Stephen Kenny will succeed Mick McCarthy as Republic of Ireland senior men’s manager later this year.
Stephen Kenny will succeed Mick McCarthy as Republic of Ireland senior men’s manager later this year.

Keith Ward, as adept at retailing a good yarn as he is at delivering a through ball, is recalling his “up and down” relationship with Stephen Kenny when the then Dundalk manager was kicking off his Oriel Park revolution and Ward was part — but, as it turned out, not a big part — of a glorious era in the making.

Any stories, Keith? “Jaysus, only bad stories (laughs). Stop, this one always comes up. We were away in Luxembourg in 2014, and I wasn’t getting a sniff that year. I came back from my cruciate and I was nowhere near getting in, the team was flying.

“Then we played Derry in the League Cup and I got a hairline fracture in my arse — the worst pain I’ve ever been in in my life. But he said: ‘Look, come away with us, you can get a bit of gym work done, I want the whole team coming.’

“So we got a good result and he let us have a night out, though we had a curfew. Then we all came down for breakfast the next morning and we’re all hanging. Hanging. I don’t really like breakfast, I’m not really a breakfasty person, so I just said to the girl serving us: ‘Here, can you just throw us out a bit of ice-cream, don’t ask me why’. Just for my sore head.

“So the girl brought it out in this big glass. There might as well have been sparklers coming out of it, it was massive, a big fancy thing. As soon as it was in front of me, the first scoop, Kenny turns the corner, looks at me, walks over and goes: ‘You’re supposed to be getting fucking fit’. I don’t think I ever played for the club again after that!”

Not that Ward is one to hold a grudge. “I don’t take things personal. Look, I pulled him a lot of times and asked him what I could do more to get into the team but when a team’s winning every week, what can you do? Seeing the way Stephen is around the place and the way he treats his players, you couldn’t fall out with him.

“He’s great, honest to God, an unbelievable character. I know he’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea but to see him in team talks, his insight into the game and how much he loves the players, he’s mad but he’s fascinating.

“Honest to God, if you told him before a game that you want to have a bouncy castle out on the pitch because it helps you, he’d get you a bouncy castle. He’d do anything for the players.”

Ward says he is “absolutely delighted” with Kenny’s appointment as Ireland manager. “He’s a breath of fresh air and it’s great for the league. We’ve helped Stephen Kenny get the Ireland job because he came through our league and did so well. I’m fascinated, I really hope it goes well.

“I think it’s exciting times.”

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