THE PwC PLAYER of the month award put the bow on a stunning month of June for Wexford midfielder Diarmuid O’Keeffe. 

Now in his eighth inter-county season, he helped the Model County end a 15-year wait without the Leinster title the weekend before last.

“That can go along with my U12 most improved player of the year award for soccer,” O’Keeffe smiles. “Absolutely delighted.” 

The Leinster final is now firmly in the rearview mirror – for the players at least. They’ll discover their All-Ireland semi-final opponents this weekend when Tipperary take on Laois, which will sharpen the minds further.

“I’d say the majority of lads will be looking at them,” he says. “I suppose you’ll be looking at the games from an enjoyment point of view more than anything.

“Following that, whether it’s Laois or Tipperary we’ll zone in on specifics.”

Reflecting on the “crazy” celebrations following their provincial success, O’Keeffe remarks: “The scenes in Gorey were something unreal. Everyone was out on the street. The main street on Gorey is 700m or 800m long and it possibly took us an hour to get through it. It was just crazy.

Wexford midfielder Diarmuid O’Keeffe.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“We went through Ferns and Enniscorthy, Oylegate as well, it was probably a little bit later in the night so it was a bit quieter but there was still plenty of people out. It was great to be part of it.

“We got Tuesday out of it as well – Davy (Fitzgerald) was very good to us. It was back to training on Thursday.

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“When you don’t win something for so long and then you do get a bit of silverware, it’s important to enjoy it. Some of the younger guys like Conor McDonald and Rory [O’Connor] would have Leinster U21 medals but the likes of us haven’t any medals to show for it.”

The opportunity to mingle with supporters was an enjoyable one, but the players are now fully focused on their first All-Ireland semi-final appearance since 2007.

“Every conversation you have is about hurling. It’s largely down to the fact that it’s been 15 years since we won a Leinster Championship. We’re just trying to focus on putting that to one side for the moment and getting ready for two-and-a-half weeks’ time – that’s really important. 

“While we really enjoyed it at the time, it’s time to leave that to the side for the moment.”

Diarmuid O’Keeffe won the PwC GAA / GPA Player of the Month for June.

Source: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

Fitzgerald’s decision to push O’Keeffe forward from wing-back to midfield has proved a masterstroke. The St Anne’s clubman was a regular scorer on the half-back line and is thriving in the freedom provided by his new role in centre-field.

“I’ve moved positions in the last two years with Davy, I was wing-back and now I’m middle of the field. Look, on a personal level it’s all about trying to improve yourself week after week and game after game, and that adds to a team performance then and team improvement. 

“When I was coming up underage I would have always played midfield, so possibly it’s the most natural position for me. I’m just happy to play, so long as I’m on the starting 15 I really don’t care where I’m playing. I say that to guys in work that are asking me the same question, it doesn’t bother me so long as I’m playing.

“Any one of the lads can end up in any position, whether it be the forward line or the backs. I’m pushing on now, I’m 27 and the years are adding up, maybe I’m getting more mature on the field alright, but more childish in the dressing room, perhaps.”

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