Kerry native is Keane to end long wait for the Barrs

Kerry native is Keane to end long wait for the Barrs
St Finbarr's Enda Dennehy bursting past Carbery Rangers' Brian Shanahan. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

MEET Ray Keane, the Kerryman who's helped guide St Finbarr's to the first county senior football championship final at the new-look Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday, throw-in, 4pm.

The Caherciveen-native, who is married and living in Ballincollig, is in his second season with the club, having been enticed there in the first place by 'Barr's stalwart, Tony Leahy.

“I got to know Tony when he was manager of CIT and I was playing. When I finished playing, he asked me to stay on as a selector. I did a year or two.

“We remained in touch and then, about three years ago, I got a call from him to say he was going back to train the 'Barr's and asked me to get involved.

“Last year, I was asked to take it over and I've obviously stayed on this year,” Keane, Bank of Ireland manager in Cobh, explained.

In current lingo, Keane would have pulled the strings for his home club, St Mary's, wearing the number 11 jersey and orchestrating the attack. Yep, that's the same club which produce a certain Maurice Fitzgerald, fadó, fadó.

“We managed to win an All-Ireland Junior Club as well as South Kerry senior championships.

“I had a lovely career in that I enjoyed every moment of it. I was lucky enough to play with some great players and some very successful players.

“We had teams that were successful enough along the way and we won a few bits and pieces. If I played a small part in it, that's great,” Keane commented.

The 'Barr's last reached a final in 2010, losing to Nemo, and it's 32 years since the Andy Scannell Cup last found its way out Togher direction. 

The new man's approach was step-by-step.

“When you take over a team initially, you're trying to bring them together, make them committed, honest and organised.

“After that you progress. Prizes and end destinations are the dream, but only one team can win any competition.

“Very simply, I focus on the next game. You'd like to think you are improving and progressing.

“It's worked so far, but we're under no illusions about Sunday. This time last year we were finished, gone out of the championship at the start of September.

“We're delighted. We're heading for the middle of October and some of these lads are playing football for the first time at this stage of the year.” 

Selector Mick Comyns and team manager Ray Keane. Picture: David Keane.
Selector Mick Comyns and team manager Ray Keane. Picture: David Keane.

The Caherciveen Keanes are clearly a talented bunch. His brother, Peter, steered Kerry to the All-Ireland minor title last month, the Kingdom's fourth on the spin.

And while the workload of the modern manager, be it club or county, can be overwhelming, Ray believes it's a labour of love.

“It's a huge commitment. 

"Training is the great and most enjoyable part of it. I wouldn't swop that for the world.

“The other side is the actual phone calls, the organising, being away from home and doing more work on certain days to spend a bit of time elsewhere.

“There's an awful lot of stuff that goes into it, but, if you're unhappy, then get out. I would never whinge about that, to be quite honest.

“It's something I was brought up on, rared on it. It's my life. 

"That's my golf or my racing that other people love.

“If I'm not training a team, I'd be watching games anyway. That's my nature. I remember at three or four years of age going around the countryside with my late father.

“I've been carried to games in every county in Ireland. 

"That was it because I loved it. That's where I got it from.” 

After losing heavily to Ballincollig in round 1, the 'Barr's got their campaign back on track with wins over Newcestown, CIT, Ballincollig again and champions Carbery Rangers in the semi-final.

“It just didn't work for us the first night against Ballincollig. 

"We were leading at half-time, but they just blew us out of the water in the second-half.

“We regrouped, put the heads down and there's a great bunch of young fellows here with a great work ethic who give you everything that's inside of them.

“All credit to them. They're progressing along nicely and improving game-on-game.

“The defeat didn't force us to change anything. Player wise you will have a natural evolution of guys coming through. Some guys will go forward, others will go backwards.

“Injuries also impact. We had three out that night. I think we just kept working hard really and you have to have a bit of belief in what you're doing.

“More importantly, the players have to believe in what you're doing and thankfully it has got us to here.

“That's irrelevant now, though, because it's in the past. We've a big, big task ahead of us on Sunday and that's what we're trying to get our heads around now.” 

Nemo are the kingpins of Cork football with a record to drool over and Keane describes it as a 'colossal challenge.'

“If I knew how they were going to set-up, I'd be delighted. The plan really is to focus on ourselves. If we can get our own house in order, that's about the best you can do.

“You could spend all your life waiting and wondering about others, but you must get your own house ready because otherwise, the day, the game or the occasion will pass you by. My philosophy is very simple. You win."

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