GAA | 1 week ago
Any goalkeeper who doesn't believe in gym work needs to listen to Stephen O'Keefe's story
Unreal dedication

The importance of a goalkeeper is often understated, but teammates are well aware of their true value.

The role of the goalkeeper has changed. Historically, a goalkeeper was often seen as a player who could get away with a lack of fitness, who didn't have to be physically at their peak.

The old certainties have changed, and the requirements of a goalkeeper have broadened considerably.

A goalkeeper has so many responsibilities nowadays, it doesn't end at shot-stopping.

Stephen O'Keeffe, despite being a shot-stopping expert, is testament to these revolving demands.

We saw the Ballygunner club man give an exhibition in the changing role of a goalkeeper in Waterford's quarter-final clash with Wexford, where he raced along the endline on countless occasions to support any of his defenders who were struggling in possession.

This increased physicality in O'Keeffe's game is no coincidence.

Derek McGrath and Stephen O'Keeffe go way back. The Waterford manager first came across O'Keeffe as a 12-year-old in De La Salle college, where he was a teacher, according to Malachy Clerkin in Saturday's Irish Times.

"He was thin as a pipe cleaner back then, a tent-pole for the marquee he made of every jersey. They couldn’t find one small enough for him to fill so he swam in what they had until time eventually piped in some insulation."

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Back then, O'Keeffe was a scrawny chap who couldn't fill any jersey they gave him. In the intervening years, he represented his school side in their back to back Harty Cup winning campaigns in 2007 and 2008, and all the while was involved in Waterford development squads.

O'Keeffe was the Waterford minor goalkeeper in 2009, and he was still markedly thin for a goalkeeper.

O'Keeffe kept plugging away, and according to a Derek McGrath he made a huge "physical progression" in the next few years, and just look at him now.

He is now 13 stone/82kg of pure muscle, obviously with a lot of gym work behind him.

O'Keeffe is one of the best goalkeepers in the game. He is well built, he is quick, his puck-outs are precise and his shot-stopping really is second-to-none.

An example to all.

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