It’s 18 months since Aoife Keane last donned a Clare jersey at competitive level, an ill-fated All-Ireland Championship exit at home to neighbours Galway in July 2017 before a frustrating long-term knee injury preventing her from playing any part in the following year’s campaign.
However, after making a storming comeback for Inagh-Kilnamona’s hat-trick of county senior titles and subsequent advancement to a second successive Munster Club decider, her eagerly awaited return to inter-county action isn’t as straight-forward as one might expect.
In a busy opening to 2019 for the 4th Year student, she first leads out UL’s senior camogie side alongside club-mate and fellow joint-captain Clare Hehir in their final group outing against UCD in St Patrick’s this Thursday (7.30pm) before hopefully lining out for Clare in Sunday’s National League opener against Kilkenny in Callan.
“It’s exciting to be honest, at the moment I’m kept on my toes thinking about the next training and the next game but it’s just great to be able to be back playing at that level for both the Ashbourne for UL and Clare.
“It’s brilliant as you get to play against the top teams and also play with the top players from different counties with the Ashbourne and the best players in the county for Clare.”
Her enthusiasm is infectious but having missed so much playing action of the past year, Keane is understandably savouring every minute of being fully part of the county set-up once more.
“There’s really good positive vibes and everyone is getting on so well. It’s also great to have some experienced players back in the squad along with a lot of new girls coming in so it has been nice to be able to get to new people when you’re playing, that’s what sport is all about really.
“We’re just looking forward to getting going now. We’ve done a fair share of training in preparation for this so while it will be challenging, it’s something that we’re really looking forward to.
“That said, every team you go out against, whether it’s Limerick or Kilkenny, you’re not going to underestimate any county at this level. I mean every game you play is going to be the hardest one at that time so we can only look at our next game which is against Kilkenny this Sunday so we’re just looking for a big effort and a performance and hopefully everything after that will take care of the rest.”
And having unearthed contrasting results from their last two championship trips to Kilkenny, with a memorable 2017 draw in Nowlan Park followed up by a heavy beating in Ballyragget last July, what can supporters expect from their latest outing in Noreside?
“Anything can happen on the day and being down in Kilkenny, it’s going to be a challenge but look, we can only control and influence what we can so we can only hope to perform and see where that takes us this weekend.”