QUITE A BIT has changed in Keith Fahey’s life since he last lined out for St Patrick’s Athletic.
Widely regarded as the best player in the Airtricity League thanks to his performances during the 2008 season, the Dubliner earned a move to Birmingham City where he would go on play his part in their promotion to the Premier League the following year.
While gaining experience in England’s top flight, the midfielder caught the eye of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni and made his senior international debut in May 2010 before appearing 16 times for the Boys in Green and scoring three goals along the way.
Recent years have not been gone as well and after being let go by Birmingham at the end of last season, Fahey had to battle back from a hip operation during the summer. A stint training with League One outfit Sheffield United allowed him to regain his fitness but he then dislocated his toe at a particularly unfortunate time.
There were a couple of offers on the table both in Ireland and across the water but Fahey, a favourite at Richmond Park, now finds himself back at Inchicore for a third spell with the club.
And one thing has remained during that time away — his love for the Saints.
“I love Pat’s, there was never going to be anyone else,” Fahey said yesterday. “I love my football here and playing out in Richmond Park.
I had a good think about it and I could have gone back to England and trained but I wanted to get back going as soon as I could and Pat’s was the choice for me.”
The Saints may have been unable to break their FAI Cup hoodoo during Fahey’s time in England, but he does have the difficult task of coming into a title-winning side after Liam Buckley’s men beat Dundalk in the Premier Division race in October.
John Russell has departed from their talented midfield for Sligo but PFAI Player of the Year Killian Brennan and Greg Bolger remain while James Chambers also returns after a difficult season with Shamrock Rovers.
Despite his vast experience, Fahey doesn’t believe it will be a matter of simply walking into the team.
“I’m looking forward to training with the lads and seeing how it goes for myself.”
Fahey playing for Pat’s back in 2008. Credit: INPHO/James Crombie
At 30, he still has plenty to offer but admits it will take time to regain his match fitness after six weeks without training.
On the the season ahead, he adds: “It’s going to be really tough but there is a good squad here and our main priority will be to do well in the league. The bonus is European football and Liam wants to do well in Europe.
“I’ve gained a fair bit of experience over the last few years and I’d like to think it can help the lads and see where we go. It’s going to be hard to retain the title and win it back-to-back but that’s what we will be aiming to do.”
Unsurprisingly, Fahey has been regularly asked about his international future since the appointment of Martin O’Neill. And although he isn’t slamming the door shut on a comeback, the main focus right now is on his club career.
To be honest, I’m not looking at my Irish career. At the moment I’ve a short term plan to get back playing football. Whatever happens between now and then, my main priority is to get back playing and enjoying it.
“If something happens with Ireland or if nothing happens with Ireland then so be it. Once I’m enjoying my football then that’s what is important to me.”
Quotes courtesy of FM 104′s Darren Cleary