Fired-up McKeegan eyes more trophies in the new year
Karl McKeegan is still basking in the after-glow of what he sees as the early Christmas present he received when Ruairi Og, Cushendall booked their place in the All-Ireland Club hurling semi-finals by overcoming Slaughtneil in the Ulster decider.
Now, 21 years after making his debut for the club, McKeegan will spend the festive season punishing himself as he targets a starting place in the All-Ireland semi-final against Connacht representatives Sarsfields in the All-Ireland Club semi-finals on February 6.
With 10 Ulster championship medals to his credit with Antrim, having given magnificent service to the Saffrons from 2002 until 2011 as well as five county championship and four provincial medals with Cushendall, Keegan is one of the most decorated players of his generation. But his thirst for more honours means he is prepared to make sacrifices at Christmas in order to be in peak condition for what he sees as a "major occasion" for the club he has served so loyally.
"Maybe I'm getting on a bit but I would love to get a starting place in the All-Ireland semi-final," says McKeegan. When McKeegan began his hurling career, the levels of commitment, dedication and fitness were not quite in the same bracket as those demanded in today's game.
"Maybe in the past some club teams, including ourselves, were perhaps not as dedicated as they could have been but I can tell you that this current Cushendall side beats them all in terms of passion and making sacrifices. Nobody messes about and that's great to see," insists McKeegan.
"It would be wrong to say that we're putting Christmas on hold or anything like that but I can tell you this, I will certainly be sustaining my efforts over the holiday and I know that other boys are doing the same."
"You don't get too many chances in your career to play in All-Ireland semi-finals and if we manage to beat Sarsfields we will have the opportunity to play in the final in Croke Park on St Patrick's Day. Now that would be just heaven for us!"