Mark Keane can kick on in AFL despite ambition to play for Cork again

Talented Mitchelstown native feels Cathail O'Mahony and Colm O'Callaghan would thrive in Aussie Rules
Mark Keane can kick on in AFL despite ambition to play for Cork again

Mark Keane of the Magpies kicks the ball during a Collingwood Magpies AFL training session at Holden Centre last summer. Picture: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

CORK goalscoring hero against Kerry Mark Keane believes underage football stars Cathail O’Mahony and Colm O’Callaghan are good enough to sign professional footy forms with Australian Rules teams.

Keane, who recently signed a two-year contract extension to remain with Collingwood in the Australian Football League, believes fellow Mitchelstown club man O’Mahony, in particular, is a special talent who could flourish Down Under.

“As a young full-forward Cathail’s got everything,” Keane told Echo Sport.

“He was one of Cork’s best players in their 2019 All-Ireland U20 championship win and now he’s doing equally well in the seniors.

“I know he’s keen on playing Australian Rules at some stage and next year Collingwood will have two international rookie spots so hopefully, he will have the opportunity to show the club’s recruiters just how talented he is.

“Cathail could become one of the best full-forwards in the GAA but he’s also got the talent to do exceptionally well in the AFL.” 

Keane also gave Éire Óg powerhouse Colm O’Callaghan a glowing reference.

“Colm’s got all of the attributes to become a Cork superstar in the Munster senior championship in the future and he could also do well in Australian Rules if he gets the opportunity.

“I am very close to one of Collingwood’s recruiters and have recommended both Cathail and Colm to the club.” 

Keane scored an unforgettable injury-time goal on his Cork senior debut against Kerry in last year’s Munster championship semi-final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

The 20-year-old's dramatic winner ended Kerry’s eight-year Munster monopoly and Keane’s name was written into Rebel folklore.

“Gaelic football is the sport I grew up with so scoring that goal for Cork on my debut and putting us into the final was definitely the highlight of my career,” Keane said.

“I would also place my senior debut for Collingwood against Fremantle in round nine of last year’s AFL season alongside it.

“It meant a lot to me to make my debut in my first season at the club. I was named as an emergency player through the finals as well so that has also given me the confidence to believe I can play more senior games this year.” 

The Collingwood defender believes Cork can end their near-decade wait for another Munster senior championship this year despite having their hopes crushed by Tipperary in last year’s final.

“I think everyone in the Cork team can take a lot of confidence from beating Kerry last year,” Keane said.

“Tipperary know we can beat them, and if we play like we did for the majority of games last season, I don’t see why we can’t beat them in another final.

“I will definitely put my hand up to play both Gaelic football and hurling for Cork in the Aussie Rules off-season if Collingwood gives me permission to turn out again.” 

INJURY

The former Cork underage star is currently sidelined after rupturing a tendon in his finger during Collingwood pre-season training in Melbourne on January 19.

The injury required surgery and he was subsequently given a recovery timeline of eight-weeks. The 2021 AFL season kicks off on March 18, which has effectively ruled Keane out of the opening rounds of the new season.

Mark Keane Picture via @CollingwoodFC Twitter
Mark Keane Picture via @CollingwoodFC Twitter

“I am only in the second year of my career so there is no point in rushing back until I am ready. When the injury happened, my finger wouldn’t move, so I was advised to get it checked out.

“I am halfway through my recovery now and I am looking forward to resuming a full training and giving myself the best chance of playing more AFL games this season,” Keane said.

“Collingwood is one of the biggest clubs in the AFL and for us, it’s all about winning premierships.

“The mood around the group is very positive and there are so many top players and leaders who have welcomed me from day one and are driving the whole club to win another premiership.” 

Not 21 until March and with his peak years ahead of him, Keane’s ultimate ambition is to follow in Tadhg Kennelly’s footsteps and retire as only the second Irish player in history to win both an AFL Premiership and an All-Ireland title.

Winning an All-Ireland for Cork would mean more because I grew up with the game, I’ve played for my boyhood club Mitchelstown, and it would make my family very proud. 

“But winning an AFL Premiership would be right up alongside it and I am sure my family would be equally proud of that.

“I definitely see my long-term future back in Cork and I want to go back when I still have a few years of my career left.”

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