RINGMAHON RANGERS hope to make history this Saturday by overcoming Killester Donnycarney in the Intermediate Cup semi-final and feature in their first Intermediate National Cup final.
A tough encounter ahead no doubt, but one in which club stalwart Philip Keane feels the squad are more than ready for.
“We are expecting a tough and physical game. Killester are a strong team but the management have us well prepared as usual,” said Keane.
“There are no easy games at this stage of the competition, however, we are all really looking forward to it and feel we are ready for the challenge ahead.”
The 32-year-old from Grange has been with the club for over two decades and has enjoyed a lot of success while working under some great managers, but to make it to this year’s final would be a massive occasion for him and all involved with the club.
“The club have never reached the final of this competition so it would be a massive achievement by all involved if we were to win on Saturday and we will do the best we can to make that happen.
“I joined Ringmahon when I was 10 years old and I’ve been here ever since so I’ve a long connection to the club.
“A lot of my family would have played with the club through the years and in particular my father Michael who had great success in his time there.
“We had some very good players through the years such as Colin O’Connor, Pa McKee, James McGinty and both Alan Higgins and Pa O’Brien who are with the senior team this Saturday.
“As well as having some great players, I’ve had some fantastic managers with the likes of Terry Cummins, David O’Donoghue, Mervyn O’Connor and Paul Higgins through the years and most recently Kieran O’Reilly and Aidan Foley.
“Both of those current Managers have really helped me develop as a player these last few years. I started out underage at left-back and somehow ended up as a forward for a few years until Kieran and Aidan thought I’d be more suited to right back, so that’s where I’ve played this season and I am really enjoying it to be honest.”
So how did Keane keep himself fit for the past few months and how prepared is he ahead of this weekend’s semi-final?
“Finishing the league early was a big disappointment for us as we had gone unbeaten in 10 games winning eight which had the makings of a title-winning team.
“Obviously we reached the semi-final of the intermediate Cup while playing some great football but unfortunately the league was prematurely ended but it’s a great consolation that we still have a massive trophy to play for, this weekend.
“It was tough going to keep fit and motivated for the past few months when nobody knew it and when soccer would return this season.
“Credit to the lads as they had us on individual programmes during the course of the lockdown so that helped us maintain our fitness levels.
“We’ve also had three friendlies leading up to the game. Both the Mayfield and Midelton games were very competitive but the game against Cork City was a poor reflection on us.
“In fairness, they played excellently on the night but our own performance wasn’t acceptable. But there’s always positives to take and we certainly learned a lot from that game which prepares us better ahead of Saturday’s game.
“There’s a great atmosphere around the club ahead of the semi-final but unfortunately not all supporters will be able to attend due to the restrictions.
“This is a disappointment, but for those who will be able to attend, we hope it will be an entertaining game.
“We have massive experience in the squad. Even the younger lads like Jason Forde, Dean Swords, Anto O’Donnell and Roy Kenny have been with the senior team the last few years and are quality experienced players for such young lads.
“Last season we added to that by bringing in Danny Long, John Meade and Anthony Wolfe. Regards the starting 11 it’s really competitive for positions.
“You just need to look at our goalkeepers to see how competitive it is in our team. Rico and James Kirby would start with any top side and we are fortunate enough to have both.
“The management team of Aidan and Kieran since they took over have being outstanding.
“Taking us from the bottom half of the First Division to winning it in our second season and adding three senior cups along the way while challenging for the premier division has been fantastic.
“With the backroom staff of Daithi, Richie, John and Creany there’s never a dull moment in training.
“One of the best qualities of the management is bringing in top players who fit the team well. Our first season premier we added Jack Cairns, Roy Long and Jason Dunphy who have been mainstays in the team ever since and then adding Anthony McAlavey and Darren Murphy to the existing squad just shows how good our squad is and why we are in this position.
“Let’s hope on Saturday we can get the job done and look forward to the club’s First Intermediate cup final.”