ON THEIR VISIT to Oriel Park a fortnight ago, Monaghan United picked up a second league win of the current campaign.
Teenager Michael Rafter gave Sean McCaffrey’s Lilywhites the lead after just 20 seconds in a meeting of two of the Premier Division’s youngstest sides, but it was another former Ireland U18 international who stole the show.
Dubliner Jordan Keegan has been a stand-out performer for the Mons since joining the club last July and turned the match on its head in the space of 15 minutes. His first (watch below) was a pile-driver into the top corner from 20 yards, then he got onto the end of Keith Quinn’s through-ball to slot past Peter Cherrie for the winner.
For regular visitors to Gortakeegan, the display didn’t come as much of a surprise.
A native of Ballyfermot, Keegan was playing his schoolboy football with local club Cherry Orchard when scouts from across the water first took notice. At 16, they came calling and he signed a deal with Southampton.
“I really enjoyed my time there, it was a great experience for me,” Keegan told TheScore this morning. “I played regularly for the academy team and made a few appearances for the reserves.”
As is the case with countless other Irish youngsters hoping to carve out a career in professional football, he found himself back home and clubless when the Saints didn’t renew his contract in 2011.
It was tough to take when it happened,” he recalls,” but I thought about it, talked to my dad who gave me good advice and realised that football is all I wanted to do.”
Intent on focusing on the positives, he made his League of Ireland bow by signing for St Patrick’s Athletic at the start of last season. The midfielder was introduced as a substitute on the opening day of the season and went on to make 11 more appearances but wasn’t playing as regularly as he had hoped under Pete Mahon.
Roddy Collins was interested in obtaining his services and a switch to Monaghan followed that summer, where Keegan scored four goals in 12 games to help the club achieve their goal of promotion from the First Division. He remains grateful to Collins for being given the opportunity to taste regular first team football and has nothing but praise for him.
“I wasn’t really getting a look-in and just wanted to play so decided to move on. All I needed was a chance. Roddy is a great manager and all the lads enjoy playing for him. He gives me a free role and makes players play with confidence.”
With an experienced squad and a severe lack of resources, Monaghan sit bottom of the league with a third of the season played but results in recent weeks have suggested there might yet be hope.
That 2-1 win over Dundalk was followed by a dogged 0-0 draw with reigning champions Shamrock Rovers and a superb win over league leaders Sligo Rovers in the FAI Ford Cup at the Showgrounds last weekend.
As well as the improvement in results, scouts from Crystal Palace and Kilmarnock have reportedly been over to watch the team and, in particular, Keegan.
The former Ireland U18, who is out of tonight’s league match against Pat’s with an ankle injury, makes no apologies about his ambition to return to the bright lights of British football but insists his main priority right now is performing week-in, week-out for his current club.
My aim is to get back to England but I don’t take notice of anything like that and will just get on with playing football until something definite happens.
“I do feel I would be better equipped to deal with going over there now than I was when I was 16.”
With Collins openly admitting finances are tight and that he would not stand in the way of a move, we might be seeing yet another departure from the Airtricity League sooner rather than later.
Watch his goals against Dundalk below:
YouTube credit: drumenane