IF Mitchelstown had their way they’d play their county intermediate A football final against Rockchapel as soon as possible.
It would allow them have Mark Keane, Cork’s goal-scoring hero from last Sunday’s Munster semi-final win over Kerry, available. Such has been the favourable impression created by the 20-year-old that his Aussie Rules club, Collingwood in Melbourne, wouldn’t have an issue with it, according to Mitchelstown chairman Mike Price.
“Outside of Cork, he’s been given permission to play with Mitchelstown, too.
“Just say we’d been playing the final this month or in December, Mark would have been allowed play with us. They don’t do that for everybody. That’s how highly they think of him,” he told The Echo.
As things stand, though, the Town will have to wait until March at the earliest to play by which time Keane will be down under once more.
His heroic exploits clearly touched a nerve with his colleagues in Oz. ‘Way to go Keaney, you little ripper’ was one of the tweets coming out of Collingwood.
“They sent over their community officer to see our set-up and we showed him around, went for dinner and even the way he spoke about Mark gave us an insight into what they think of him.
“They wanted to get a better understanding of Mark, the person he is, his values and all that. Mark had spoken to them about the club and the town.
“They think very highly of him, so much so that Mark is one of those rare players from here to be allowed play during the Aussie Rules off-season.”
Keane remains in contact with Mitchelstown and is determined to keep up to speed with developments, particularly the path taken by the intermediate footballers on their journey.
“He watches all our games through a company, Pairc TV, I and a couple of lads in the club set-up earlier this year.
“We stream all our club games and we do other stuff for other counties as well. And Mark has seen all our games.
“He was on straight away after the semi-final, asking when the county final will be on because he’s mad to play in it. Even when I was talking to him on Sunday night Mark was saying isn’t it great for the club.
“He is so passionate about the club and is always wanting to find out what’s going and that’s great for us. He’s offered to support the club in different ways, stuff that goes on in the background which people don’t see about Mark.”
Price was amazed at Keane’s physical development since switching to Aussie Rules.
“He’s about 6' 5" and is a real specimen in that regard, but Mark was always very skillful, too, particularly in kick-passing from midfield to the forwards. And sure the way he finished for the goal against Kerry showed what a natural talent he is.
“Off the field, he is one of those very nice lads and very assuming, too, very humble. Mark has time for everyone he meets and what happened on Sunday couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
“Mark’s also quite laid back. I spoke to his father Eamonn on Sunday lunchtime and he said he was more nervous than Mark. ‘He’s gone out the door now and you’d think he was going up to the pitch for a kick around.’"
Naturally, his father and mother Frances are rightly proud of Mark’s achievements. “Everybody forgets he’s only 20 and won’t be 21 until March. That’s frightening.”
Price recalled how he was only 15 when Tadhg Murphy scored the goal in 1983.
“It’s something I will never forget for as long as I live. And I told Mark on Sunday that his goal will live with me the same way and lots of other Cork supporters, too.
“I went to the butchers in the town on Monday and it was obviously quiet with the lockdown. But, everyone you meet was talking about Mark, the goal, Mitchelstown and it’s great, so positive a vibe.
“My phone was red on Sunday night and again the following day. There were so many people wishing the club well and thanking Mark and all that kind of stuff,” Price concluded.