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08th Mar 2023

“I have to adhere to them” – How setting goals has made Keith Beirne one of top scoring forwards in the land

Niall McIntyre

Having scored 4-42 in five games so far, Leitrim’s Keith Beirne is the top scorer across all four divisions of the National Football League.

With 3-29, John Heslin is his closest rival while Derry’s Shane McGuigan and Carlow’s Darragh Foley are next-best with 2-27 and 0-33 respectively.

Relatively speaking, however, standing as he is 16 points clear, Beirne is out on his own, well on his way to achieving one of his main targets for the year.

But that’s not all.

Leitrim have big coming up against Sligo and Laois where he can seal the deal on that one but in a year like this one, with a good chance in the League and a dream draw in Connacht, as Beirne tells The GAA Hour, there are so many things to aim for.

“It’s a proper year of football.

“When I came into the team first, at 16 or 17, there was a big emphasis on the League, and when that was over, lads might drop off. Then you’d be facing Division One teams in quarter finals and semi-finals. There wasn’t as much enthusiasm. Now we’ve a tight season, and a very exciting team too.

“To have all of us on the one side of the draw for Connacht is very exciting. Sligo and New York and London will be saying the same but for us, we have to target a place in the Connacht final and to get there would be a dream,” adds Beirne.

Whether they get there or not, much of it, it’s fair to say will depend on Beirne. He’s the talisman of the team and he explains how setting his own individual goals and targets has helped improve him as a player.

“It’s something I’ve done in the last few years. I get more of a return that way.

“I remember when I first came onto the scene, I was starting games, but now I’ve honed in on my goals and I have to adhere to them. I think you have to have them.

“So a big one would be I really wanted top scorer this year.

“Thankfully that’s going well. Last year, when the Tailteann Cup was on, I said if we did get far enough I’d hopefully get an All-Star and that goal came through. So they are a big one.

“Hopefully I don’t jinx myself but if I do get top scorer this year in the National League that will be one of my main goals achieved.”

Beirne has hailed Leitrim manager Andy Moran for helping him grow as a player along the way.

“Andy is very hands-on in training. He’s down in the middle of a drill, pulling you aside, telling you what runs you need to make. It’s good to learn from someone who has done it at the top level for a few years.”

What some may not know is that it could have been so different.

Soccer’s loss was definitely Leitrim’s game as having focused on soccer as a youngster, it was touch and go whether he’d ever come back to the Gaelic.

Beirne was on the books with Longford town as a teenager, as a centre half, believe it or not, and was on a soccer scholarship in Maynooth with Irish international Jamie McGrath.

“Soccer was the one for me for years. It was the one I trained for, and I was just getting pulled back for GAA games because of where I’m from.

“I’d rarely get to train GAA back then, but I didn’t really click with management with Tony Cousins. I never really got my break.

“When I came up from the 19s I was promised a lot and this minutes and that minutes – I played Leinster senior League but wasn’t getting in, was on the bench for the League of Ireland. Then I played a club semi-final in 2015 and that didn’t go down too well. So I never made the break.”

“It’s a confusing one,” he says of playing centre half, “I was always good at defending, good at winning headers and slide tackles, but it doesn’t really make sense, because now I probably have the worst tackle rate in the team!”

Listen to the full chat with Beirne here.

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