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'It's great to be at the top of the pile rather than the bottom': From relegation play-off to Leinster run

Padraig McKeever and Simonstown Gaels have come a long way in a short space of time.

Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

GIVEN HIS RECENT form for Simonstown Gaels, it’s almost inevitable that we’ll see Padraig McKeever don Meath colours at some stage in 2018.

McKeever has been top-scorer in the last two Meath football finals, posting 1-10 between the 2016 and 2017 deciders as Simonstown strung together back-to-back crowns.

Under the management of Colm O’Rourke, Simonstown lifted their first ever senior title last year and back it up by retaining the crown this year. McKeever has been an integral part of O’Rourke’s plans and Meath boss Andy McEntee has no doubt been watching on with interest.

Promising young forward  Ruairí Ó Coileáin will spend the summer on an internship with a New York legal firm, so McEntee will be looking to add some scoring power to his forward line.

Now 26, McKeever’s Meath career didn’t quite taken off as he would have hoped. He suffered two bad knee injuries, one in 2013 and another in 2015, which stalled his progression.

“I played a bit with Meath in the past,” he says. “I had one or two bad knee injuries. (They happened) two and four years ago.

“I tore the MCL (the first time) and a then got broken bone in the knee, the same knee. It was in the O’Byrne Cup that I broke the bone in the knee against Carlow.

“At the moment it’s the club that’s still going on so that’s where the head is at.”

Niall Gaffney with Padraig McKeever McKeever in action against Wicklow in the 2014 O'Byrne Cup. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Simonstown’s upcoming Leinster semi-final against St Loman’s is understandably taking up McKeever’s focus at this stage. It hasn’t been a season without its struggles.

Simonstown were 11 points behind in the Meath quarter-final before two goals from McKeever and Mark McCabe fueled a rousing comeback.

“We were just delighted to get out of there with the win. It was a great turn-around in the second-half, lads showed a bit of steel which is what’s required at that time of the year.

“It being our first last year, guys really got the taste for a bit of success. Look, they came back this year with the right mindset.

“We had some tough games and had to dig ourselves out of some quite large holes, especially during the quarter-final this year.

“I think guys have that winning mentality in them now and have learned from last year. So, look, happy to be still out training at the moment.”

The club have come far in a short space of time. Back when McKeever was in his second year with the seniors they were involved in a relegation play-off to retain their senior status in Meath. Now they stand within 60 minutes of reaching a provincial final.

“In my second year we were fighting relegation, that’s around eight years ago now. I’ve tasted the highs and lows of senior football now, which I think has given lads that bit of experience as well.

“It’s great to be at the top of the pile now rather than the bottom of it.

“There’s a core of lads who’ve been there since that relegation match and we’ve obviously blooded some new guys in as well along the way.

“Yeah, it would be brilliant (to reach a Leinster final), but we can’t be thinking too far ahead of ourselves yet.”

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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Kevin O'Brien

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