(Credit Kevin Maguire – iLivephotos.com)
By Daragh Ó Conchúir
EMER Keenan may have been a latecomer to the intercounty scene but having dedicated herself to the development of her club, she is now intent on getting the best out of herself with Dublin for as long as she can before committing herself completely to the Lucan Sarsfields cause once more.
Keenan is captain of Dublin’s Premier Junior squad, having been part of the set-up since 2013. It was a memorable year, in which they won the All-Ireland Junior A Championship but it marked the start of a frustrating run in the League, as having annexed the Division 4 title the previous season, they lost the first of three consecutive Division 3 Finals.
They fell at the penultimate hurdle last season but are back in the deciding clash once more, this time against a Roscommon unit that is also looking to make amends having finished runners-up in 2016.
Keenan, who is part of the digital team at Electric Ireland, was 27 by the time she made the step up and explains that having been part of Dublin panels at U14 and U16 level, it was personal choice that delayed her advancement, rather than never getting an invitation.
She quickly became a valued member of the executive at Lucan and took on a training role in the club’s nursery too. Allied with her playing and training commitments, that left no time to take on anything else.
In time, the itch needed scratching. She is now in her fifth season and at 31, maintains with regards to senior progression that “that ship has probably sailed” due to the wealth of talent coming through the underage ranks. Yet she remains fiercely proud of being a Dublin Camogie player and skipper.
“Every day you’re sitting in the dressing room putting on that Dublin jersey, I’d still get the butterflies” says Keenan. “It’s a massive honour to be lining out in the Dublin jersey alongside the girls. To captain the team is just the icing on the cake.”
She will go back to her roots.
“There’s so many people that have helped all of us coming up through the grades and it’s only right that you give that time back as well.”
Shane Plowman has seen a substantial turnover in the squad this year and while her experience is important, there are plenty of leaders around, Keenan insists.
“A few girls would have retired and a few new girls that haven’t played county before have come in. So it’s a learning curve in terms of losing that experience from the girls that retired and the new girls coming in, but with that learning curve brings enthusiasm.
“It’s those new players that keep me driving on and keep the enthusiasm going. If I bring experience because of the length of time I’ve been in the panel, there’s other girls coming in bringing experience because they’ve won Championships with clubs and colleges. Experience comes in all shapes and forms and the leadership is shared within the panel as well. It’s not down to one or two players.”
Dublin emerged from their group with a 100% record and had nine points to spare over Clare in their semi-final. They have a seven-point win over Roscommon under their belt but that was in the opening tie of the campaign more than two months ago.
“The group stages did go well for us. We’ve gelled really well and have a strong panel but there’s always areas to improve on. We’d be under no illusions that even with the 100% record people keep reminding us about, we can’t rest on that. It’s up to ourselves on the pitch to put in the performances to get the win the next day, whether that be a challenge game, a League game or a Championship game.
“I can only guess that Roscommon have learned a lot about themselves throughout the remaining games, the same as ourselves. We can look back on that game and remember what we did good or bad that day but I don’t think it will have much of a say in what kind of game it is on Sunday.
“Finals are different anyway, regardless of whenever you’ve played the team last.”