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Dublin: 13°C Tuesday 22 September 2020

'At the height of his career he was a phenomenal player - he had everything'

Ger Cunningham pays tribute to Conal Keaney.

Conal Keaney was a dual star for the Boys in Blue.
Conal Keaney was a dual star for the Boys in Blue.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

DUBLIN HURLING BOSS Ger Cunningham has paid tribute to Conal Keaney, who recently called time on his inter-county career.

The 33-year-old dual star announced his retirement earlier this month after winning the All-Ireland senior football club championship title with Ballyboden St Enda’s.

Keaney, whose career spanned over 15 years, was a key part of both the Dublin hurling and football panels but decided to hang up his boots due to family and business commitments.

While he admits the loss of the forward is naturally disappointing, Cunningham says his announcement came as little surprise.

“We had chats about it earlier on in the year and he was totally focusing on Ballyboden, on the football side of it, so it wasn’t a huge surprise,” Cunningham said.

“But he’s been a phenomenal servant for Dublin over the last 15 years, both hurling and football, at that level. So it’s something that I suppose we had been expecting.

“He was an excellent hurler. At the height of his career, 2011-12 when he came back, sure he was a phenomenal player. We played him last year at wing-back in a couple of matches, and he was that good that he was able to adapt, to be able to go from being an excellent forward to being a very good defender as well.

“He had everything – great skill, great touch, great hand, great strength. At the height of his career he had the accident – that’s when he was at his best, the time he had the motorbike accident. But just a great hurler to watch.”

Conal Keaney celebrates Keaney celebrates Ballyboden St Enda's win at Croke Park last month. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Keaney made his debut for the Dublin hurlers back in 2003 before turning his attention to football. He won a national league title and five Leinster crowns with the Boys in Blue before committing himself to the hurling panel again in 2011.

“Conal is his own man,” Cunningham said when he was asked did he try and convince him to play for another year.

“He knew that the focus was going to be on the All-Ireland club up until March and he was going to miss a period of time. We had a good chat about it, and he had made his intention known.

“In one sense, the fact that he wasn’t there – we had to blood some young fellas in the national league. So obviously you’d miss that leadership in the dressing-room, there’s no doubt, but you’d be hoping that you’d try to find some new leaders and give the young fellas a chance to put their hand up for selection as well.”

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Ryan Bailey

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