Keenaghan happy to put in hard yards in pursuit of dual goals

There’s a reason why Niamh Keenaghan is one of the last remaining dual players in Cavan. It takes dedication but she still cannot bring herself to drop either Ladies football or camogie.

here are regular conflicts, whether it’s club versus college, county against college, or even county and county. Keenaghan will play with Cavan in their Ulster camogie championship opener on 30 April before she lines out for the footballers in their provincial bow the following day.

It will be another hectic weekend but she will not turn her back on her two sisters, who also play adult camogie for Cavan, or the Ladies footballers who are capable of anything in this year’s TG4 All-Ireland Senior Championship.

“We have a brilliant chance to beat Donegal and win Ulster,” said Keenaghan. “That would be our first goal and aim. We haven’t done much, we haven’t moved up or down, we have stayed in the middle. We have to look towards getting medals or winning.

“Beating Donegal is our first aim and hopefully winning an Ulster final if we get past that stage. And I think when you look at Meath ladies and what they’ve done, I don’t think it’s beyond anyone to win an All-Ireland final.

“But we take it game by game and step by step, even though it’s definitely within our reach.”

Keenaghan turned 21 on Wednesday but predictably was too busy to party, instead spending her afternoon in the gym before a pitch session in the evening. She hails from Laragh, just outside Cavan, and plays Ladies football and camogie with the local Laragh United club.

Her love for camogie stemmed from her mother Treena’s passion for that game and that in turn has fed into the lives of Niamh’s two sisters Clodagh (22) and Aislinn (19).

All three line out together for the club and came up through the ranks there, where Keenaghan picked up the game at the age of just four.

They were destined for inter-county stardom down the line but Ladies football did not become a viable option for Keenaghan until she attended secondary school at Loreto College.

“I got more involved when I went to secondary school and all my friends from secondary school were involved in football. I would have played county from U-14 up to senior,” said Keenaghan. “Cavan football is very competitive. I don’t think you got that with Cavan camogie when I was growing up. Football was more competitive, there were more teams.

“In my last year at Loreto, we won the All-Ireland ‘A’ final. They won the All-Ireland A final recently again about two or three months ago. I think the reason they do so well is management. The PE teacher, Conor Maguire, is brilliant and he had massive love for football when I was there too.

“Since we were U-14 it was always our dream to be All-Ireland finalists one day. Mick Flynn was heavily involved at the time, and still is heavily involved with Cavan ladies.

“He posed the question to us one day, where do you see yourself? We might have only been 15 or 16 but we were like, we are going to lift that All-Ireland cup with Loreto. It might have taken six years but we did it.”

That sort of mindset has also seeped into the Cavan camogie set-up, with the Keenaghan family providing the backbone for Philip Brady’s team.

“Cavan camogie has been off the map for years,” said Keenaghan.

“I think our underage has been going through the ranks but nothing major but we set up three years ago. We won a Nancy Murray Cup the first year, then Division 4 in our second year and then Division 3 this year.

“That’s massive for Cavan camogie. We have the players, it would be silly not to push on.”

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