Thursday 13 December 2018

O'Keeffe unlucky to miss out on a first All Star award

Brendan Furlong
Brendan Furlong

Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball

After a stellar season there was still no All Star gong for Wexford hurlers despite having four nominations. The question is: should Wexford have got at least one?

Having secured four nominations - Matthew O'Hanlon, Lee Chin, Diarmuid O'Keeffe and Conor McDonald - one could say they were unlucky not to have received one in an All Star hurling selection not unexpectedly dominated by All-Ireland champions Galway, and defeated finalists Waterford.

But then Wexford were in exalted company as for the first time in many seasons Kilkenny failed to receive a gong, having dominated All Star teams over the past ten years.

While Galway dominated with seven All Stars, one felt that the expoits of Wexford hurling during 2017 when they lit up the scene would have seen them squeeze into the final selection with possibly one, as Cork received two having won the Munster title.

I think Diarmuid O'Keeffe, of the four Wexford nominations, did enough to edge into the left half-back position ahead of Cork's Mark Coleman, whose stellar Munster championships displays must have caught the eye. One gets the sense there is a lot of politics when it comes to deciding on awards, having distributed the majority to the All-Ireland finalists.

But I would have gone with Dee O'Keeffe given his exploits from the wing-back position. While 19-year-old Coleman may have enjoyed the Munster campaign, by choice would have been O'Keeffe given his performances throughout both league and championship.

To me O'Keeffe ticked all the boxes. Defensively he was excellent, while as an attacking wing-back he scored in each and every league and championship game, finishing the season with a personal tally of 3-13, all from open play.

O'Keeffe was always going to be Wexford's best shot for All Star recognition but it must have been mighty close when it came down to the eventual decision. But once Anthony Nash was overlooked for goal, Coleman was always the next best option to gain representation for Cork.

Wexford no doubt were happy with their season where they made a huge impact, defeating both Galway and Kilkenny in the league, reaching a league semi-final only to lose to Tipperary, reaching a Leinster final to lose to Galway, before ending a massive year when knocked out of the championship at the quarter-final stage by neighbours Waterford.

And one player who was a model of consistency was wing-back Diarmuid O'Keeffe. From day one in that opening Walsh Cup game in Páirc Uí Shiocháin in Gorey against U.C.D., O'Keeffe was always to the forefront. He set the early tone and his scoring exploits were to continue through league and championship.

Anyway, O'Keeffe failed to get over the line for an All Star, but he will still covet a county medal should St. Anne's defeat District rivals, Crossabeg-Ballymurn, in The Courtyard Ferns Intermediate hurling championship final at Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday.

This will be an occasion he will savour as he has been his club's outstanding player in dismantling sides along the way to the final, with his performance in the semi-final victory over HWH-Bunclody being particularly heralded, as he scored 2-5 from play in a stellar performance. It would be a fitting end to the season for O'Keeffe should he inspire his side back to Senior ranks, having been relegated last season.

While on the inter-county scene, one has to pay tribute to long-serving footballer P. J. Banville who has decided to hang up his boots, just for Wexford, as he will still be available to Horeswood, remaining in club activity to torment defences.

It was in March of 2016 that Banville made his one hundredth appearance for his county, having made his debut back in 2005 when just 18 yaers of age. During his time playing at the top level he also assisted New York in the 2015 Connacht championship, while he also enjoyed that bright spell for Wexford football under Jason Ryan.

With Banville calling it a day, it now looks all about re-building for new manager Paul McLoughlin. But we cannot forget the contribution of the Horeswood native, his intelligent runs, ball skills and deadly finishing.

He will be a loss to Wexford but one would have to say 'thank you P.J.' for the many years of service to football.

Wexford People

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