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Keefe has Giant ambitions after landing dream job

By Stuart McKinley

Adam Keefe is ready to embrace the pressure that comes with being in charge of the Belfast Giants after the club confirmed his appointment as head coach.

The Belfast Telegraph exclusively revealed last Friday that the 33-year-old was the preferred choice of the club’s management and the Giants released the news last night.

After six seasons in the Giants team — the last five as captain — Keefe steps into a demanding role and after three trophyless seasons the pressure to deliver is on right from the start.

Like during his playing days — which will now come to an end after 352 games for the Giants — Keefe isn’t about to duck that challenge.

“I feel the pressure in this role just as I have felt it every year as captain too,” said Keefe.

“I recognised the passion of the fans and we have the best volunteer base anywhere in hockey.

“That passion feeds into the dressing room and the pressure comes from that, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I want to have that expectation on me.”

Keefe will have Steve Saviano and Alex Foster back on his roster next season, but he has lost the goalscoring prowess of Mike Forney and James Desmarais after their terms in Belfast came to an end.

Along with the Giants’ Head of Hockey Operations Steve Thornton he will now set about trying to build a team to compete for trophies and, while winning silverware as a rookie coach may be a tough ask, Keefe isn’t about to settle for making up the numbers.

“I don’t think I will be expected to win a treble in my first season, but I don’t see why that can’t happen with the right work and the right recruitment,” said Keefe.

“If we do things right this summer and add to the good team that we already have here we’ll have a chance.”

Having captained the team to their last trophy success, the Elite League title in 2014, Keefe knows what it takes to win and he will set about instilling that in the players that he retains and the new faces that are brought to Belfast before the new season starts in September.

“Success to me is winning leagues and trophies and to do that you need a work ethic and a compete level,” he said.

“We have had that in the last three years, but have just come up short on consistency.

“You have to be relentless in wanting the puck and if you can put that with a work ethic, compete level and consistency then success follows that.”

Keefe worked alongside previous player-coach Derrick Walser as a playing assistant for the last two years as he turned one eye to his future after playing.

His approach now that he is in the top job will be evolution rather than revolution after paying tribute to his predecessor, who led the Giants to a second-place finish in the Elite League and to the semi-finals of the Play-offs and Challenge Cup.

“I want to build on what Derrick built here,” he said. “Finishing second to a very good Cardiff team isn’t a terrible season. I learnt a lot from Derrick.

“We will have good players remaining, before the end of the season we were getting systems nailed down and I won’t come in and tear it down and start building from the ground up.”

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