Football: FIGHTING TALK; FRIDAY INTERVIEW St Pat's Experienced Striker Paul Keegan Keegan: To Succeed You Need Bottle, Determination & Heart to Keep Going. You Have to Make Sacrifices for the Team

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Byline: Garry Doyle CHIEF SOCCER WRITER

IT was on their preseason trip to Spain when the St Pat's players and management were offered an insight into Paul Keegan's head.

He had been with his new team-mates five days and beyond the usual dressingroom banter, had given little away of himself.

Then John McDonnell gathered the entire Pat's squad into a conference room at the team hotel to canvas their opinion.

Writing three questions on the top of a chart, McDonnell stood to one side, looked his players in the eye and said, 'okay lads, your turn. Say what you have to say.'

Two-and-a-half hours later the talking finally stopped.

"That meeting was probably the most important session we have had since I took charge," said McDonnell.

"Three questions were asked. The players came up with 32 different answers."

Keegan provided one of those. He was hesitant at first, and then said to hell with it. "They can like it or lump it but this is what I think."

And so he wrote: "To succeed, you have to have the bottle, the determination and the heart to keep going. You have to make sacrifices for the team."

It's something he has been doing all his career.

As a player, he has always been the subservient striker, the supplier rather than the finisher.

And as a person, he's had to carry a greater burden than most - looking after his father, Peter, when he was in illhealth, before supporting his brothers and sisters after Peter's death.

Last year, his Glaswegian wife lost her father and Keegan knew he would have to leave Ireland and live in Scotland. He did so without fuss or fanfare.

So these days he mixes his time between Dublin and Clydebank - flying in from Scotland once a week - doing his best to keep everyone happy. And so far, the Pat's fans have been happy - happy with the two goals he scored against Bray last week and the general form he has delivered.

Keegan said: "It's always a relief to get your first goals for a new club.

"Until last week, I had just one from the League Cup and it's the League where you are really anxious to score.

"A lot of people seem to see me as just a set-up kind of player - which I am to a large extent - but when I get a chance, I like to take them.

"So it was a relief to get one last week. You never want to let these things drag on."

It dragged on at Longford, his last club. It dragged on and on, and on until it became a running joke - that Keegan was trying to outdo Diego Forlan's record at Man United.

And then one day the drought finished. Keegan broke his duck and the goal he scored just happened to be the 2004 FAI Cup winner.

Keegan said: "I cannot tell you what a relief that was. You see I'd been there for the whole season, hadn't even scored and I felt like a waste of space, a drain on their economy.

"So to score the winner and put them into Europe was just a relief. …