It is a testament to the dedication and tenacity of the man but the game against Sligo just over two weeks was the first championship game John McKeon has missed since making his debut back in 2000, yet it was a win that filled the Drumreilly man with enormous pride as he faces into yet another meeting with Roscommon next Sunday in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada.
By John Connolly
“I joined the panel at the end of October 99, it is a long number of years but it is days like Sligo that make it all worthwhile,” said the long serving defender told the Observer at the Leitrim GAA Press night in the Bush Hotel, “All the players were saying in Sligo it was great to see the crowd out on the field and hopefully, Pairc Sean on the twelfth, if it was the same sort of win on Sunday, a bigger crowd out on the field in Carrick, we’d be all delighted.”
For John, it was the first time he has missed out on the championship since he made his Provincial debut against Roscommon in the famous semi-final win in 2000 and the inspirational former Leitrim captain admits it was rough to sit on the sidelines - “It was a sickener surely. I’ve been lucky enough with injuries over the years, I never really got too many injuries.
“It was a change being on the sideline. It is the first one I’ve missed but I think the injury is coming back now 100% and I hope to get a run the next time. The last ten minutes, we were roaring at the management about the time so I think their heads were annoyed with all the subs roaring about the time. If we have the same problem on Sunday, ten minutes to go and three points up, we will all be happy too!
“It has been painful going to games, thinking you could be out there, doing something on the field rather than looking on from the sidelines but that is the way it happens and you just have to take those things on the chin.”
The road back from his shoulder injury sustained in the FBD game against Mayo at the end of January was not an easy one and it was a lonely one - “As soon as I was fit to get back running, I was back running, trying to get the fitness right. It took a long time to get the physical contact back because it is a slow healing type of injury but I think it is ok now so I’m looking to get back now.”
The victory against Sligo has not only revitalised the County’s supporters but it has reinvigorated the players, particularly those who have been searching for a big win for a long time and John is determined to make the most of the opportunity.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it, we had a huge victory against Sligo and it was a great victory for the panel of players, they truly deserved it and there were great celebrations on the field from the supporters, there is a great buzz around the county so we’re definitely looking forward to Roscommon.
To read the full story see this week’s Leitrim Observer.