Keeva Keenan

Keeva Keenan lifted the Celtic Women’s Player of the Year award as their season hots up

Exclusive interview: Tony Connelly

KEEVA Keenan has built on her promising debut year at Celtic with a sensational start to the current campaign and the Hoops defender believes all the ingredients are within reach to ensure the momentum continues for the team as they pursue Champions League football next season.

The 21-year-old Dubliner was recognised for her performance sthis season, at this year’s Celtic Awards ceremony as she took home the Women’s Player of the Year award.

Just a week later, she was part of Eddie Wolecki Black’s Hoops side that emphatically defeated Hibernian, who have long been one of the two dominant forces in Women’s Scottish football, 3-0 to move into second place and make a claim for a place in Europe.

The Celtic View caught up with Keeva ahead of their next game against Spartans tonight (Wednesday).

How is the team feeling after the win over Hibs?
It still hasn’t sunk in to be honest. It’s one of those teams that, if you beat them like we did, you feel like you’ve won the Champions League because they have been such a dominant team for so long. We’ve been on the end of some heavy losses to them, and it’s been around six years since Celtic defeated Hibs. We didn’t scrape a 1-0 win against them either, we gave them a doing this time, so it’s really satisfying for everyone involved.

What was the game itself like?
The good thing was that two of our goals came straight from the training ground. We had been working on those over the past couple of weeks and we executed it in the game to a tee. Eddie spotted weaknesses in the opposition and crafted a game plan that allowed us to exploit those. We worked really hard in the game against them, and the GPS reports show that, we worked as hard as we could, and I don’t think Megan had many saves to make. When she was called into action she showed up for us. We limited them at the back and the strikers did their job at the other end. There’s not much more you can ask for.

How much will a result like that impact on the rest of the season?
Our confidence has been quite high recently. We’ve had some good results with a 4-1 win over Rangers and we’ve been picking up the three points. We’ve been playing well, training has been good and spirits have been high about the team. We were confident going into that game and that’s what got us the result against Hibs, that and Eddie getting the game-plan absolutely spot on.

Celtic have now moved up to second in the league. How significant has that been for the team?
We’re now comfortably residing in the top two which is huge because this time last year there was a big gap between us and Glasgow City and Hibs. City are quite a bit ahead of us now, but if we can keep neck and neck with Hibs, then we’ll have made a massive improvement in a short period of time. Our aim is to finish at least second because that gives us the second Champions League spot. That was our target at the start of the season. We’re nearing the mid-season break, so if we can head into that second in the table, and hopefully take points off City, then I don’t doubt for a second that we will be in the Champions League next season.

How are you feeling after winning the Celtic Women’s Player of the Year award?
I was absolutely beaming. I was a bit shell-shocked and I didn’t really believe it when I was told. I’m delighted with winning it and it’s really nice to know your team-mates are noticing the things that you’re doing to help them on the park. I couldn’t have been more grateful to my team-mates for that. It was a lovely night too. I thought the awards ceremony was a great environment to be in too, not just because of our players but the men’s team as well. We sat and bonded with all the men’s team and they couldn’t have been more sound with us. You wouldn’t often get a meal like that where you all sit together and get to chat. It’s good to get everyone together away from the pitch so we can have a laugh and talk more. I had a chat with all the players and staff. Jonny Hayes and Damien Duff made a point of speaking to me to find out where exactly where I was from and to see if they knew any of my family. They were all sound and we had a brilliant night.

You’re now in your second season at the club, how has it compared so far to the first?
It’s been a good start to the season for me, so hopefully I can make it an even better second year than my first. I really enjoyed my first season at Celtic and if we could take that second Champions League spot, that would make it 10 times better.

What areas are you trying to improve on during the rest of the season?
I’ve been trying to improve on every area really. I know you have your areas where you’re good and areas where you’re weak, but every area can be improved on. I’m always working on my fitness, passing or challenges. I’m constantly working on bettering myself in every area.  We’ve also benefitted from some of the experienced players that Eddie’s signed. I’m only 21 and I’m constantly learning from some of the players who are older and have been playing at the top for over a decade. It can be things like your attitude on the park or with things off it. You’re constantly picking up little things here and there from them. That’s not just me, all of the girls are noticing that.

Eddie Wolecki Black has had an excellent start as Celtic manager. How has it been working under him?
He’s a genius, an absolute genius. You could tell from the minute he walked in the door to take training that he knows the game inside out. There are things he’s pointed out to us about team’s weaknesses, and when you see them it seems obvious, but you would never have noticed them yourself. He has an out-and-out football brain and he knows how to play the game. He also knows all of the teams in our league inside out because of the number of games he’s watched. He knows every player in this league down to a tee. We have the same set-up each week in terms of structure, but the gaffer has been amazing and we’re all taking on board what he’s saying. We just have to listen and put the work in during training. You can tell the girls are fighting for their place in the team and that’s pushing everyone on. You need that competitiveness in and about the team. We’re team-mates but we’re competing to start ahead of each other for a place in the games.

Celtic Women take on Spartans tonight (Wednesday), at K-Park, East Kilbride with a 8pm kick-off time.

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