Shane Keegan is daring to dream this week as Dundalk gear up for a possible return to the Europa League group stages.
The club’s opposition analyst is a big Tottenham Hotspur fan and has already told those in the Oriel Park dressing room that he wants Harry Kane’s jersey for his son Conor if the Lilywhites are paired with Jose Mourinho’s side in Friday’s draw for the group stages.
Before that dream can become a reality, however, the former Galway Utd boss knows Filippo Giovagnoli’s side have a job today against KÍ Klaksvik in the Aviva Stadium on Thursday (kick-off 7.30pm, live on RTÉ Two).
While not taking the Faroese side for granted, Keegan said it is good to dream and is even doing a bit of it himself this week.
“I came in yesterday and I told the lads straight off that if we go and do the business on Thursday night and if we draw Spurs out of the hat on Friday morning then my young fella is obsessed with Harry Kane and that jersey is mine. I’m laying claim to it now,” he laughed.
“There’s a few of them weren’t having it but I’ll fight them tooth and nail if it comes to it.
“The idea of the buzz of us all sitting down on Friday waiting to see who comes out of the hat and what trips we’ll be heading off on and all that, that’s another one of about five or six different motivating factors to deliver but it just takes one man to be below where they were last Thursday night and the result doesn’t go our way.
“It literally just takes one man because it makes my head want to explode when I hear uneducated people saying Sheriff were a poor team. I was knee deep in Sheriff for two weeks and they are anything but a poor team. They were poor on the night because we made them be poor on the night. I’m not saying they’re Barcelona but we made a very good team look very poor because of our application and if we reach those levels again I don’t care what the Faroese bring I think we’ll come through with the right result but we have to get to that level again.”
The Laois man admitted that KÍ Klaksvik, who beat Dinamo Tbilisi 6-1 last week to set up the play-off clash with Dundalk, were like nothing he had ever come across before and warned that they couldn’t be taken for granted.
“They’re about an interesting a side as I’ve ever come across because they’re different to anything I’ve ever seen before in terms of how they go about things,” he said.
“Their shape and their setup, I don’t know how you’d put a number on it. I can’t even give it a configuration but one thing I can tell you is what they do, they do it extremely effectively.
“Thursday night in terms of them scoring goals, that wasn’t a once off. They played three games in the league in August and they won 5-0, 6-0 and 7-0. Granted, their domestic league is not wonderful but it still takes a fair bit of doing to win 5-0, 6-0 and 7-0 over the course of three league games in a month.
“They’re very, very effective at what they do. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly tiki-taka football or anything.
“They won 6-1 last Thursday with 29% possession. That’s unheard of but the only way you can possibly do that is to have a system where everybody knows we aren’t going to have the ball but we all know what we’re going to do when we don’t have it and we all know what to do in the less than a third of the game where we do have the ball and that’s the most impressive thing about them.
“Everybody is playing to a system and everybody knows their jobs. Like I say it’s an unusual system and that in itself will cause question marks for our fellas because they’ll be coming up against something they haven’t ever really come up against before in terms of the style. It’s going to be an interesting one and it’s going to be no walk in the park that’s for sure.”
While Dundalk are favourites for the tie, which would be worth €3 million to the club, Keegan said people shouldn’t underestimate Klaksvik just because they come from the Faroe Islands.
“I keep going on about this, you can’t judge an individual team by the quality of their league. You can’t judge Celtic on the standard of Scottish football.
“It’s not even that you’re guarding against complacency because there can’t be any complacency.
“If we’re completely honest, we got the best draw we could have possibly got but if they’re completely honest they got the best possible draw that they could possibly have got. If they could have drawn one team to play they’d have picked Dundalk, without a doubt in my opinion. We’re both licking our lips.
“They’ll be looking at it saying these guys haven’t any massive pedigree in Europe and they’ve been toiling this year. You can imagine how easy it is to paint a narrative for them in terms of why they’d fancy their chances.
“There won’t be any complacency from us but giving them complete and utter respect, at the end of the day I would say that if we play how we did on Thursday night then I can’t see how we don’t win the game.”
Keegan has enjoyed an increased role in the background under Giovagnoli and is hopeful there will be more big European days to plan for after Thursday.
“I’m absolutely loving it to be honest,” he said.
“I was in college in 2016 on Thursday nights up in UCD and I used to come out of class at around 9pm and tear back to Tallaght and talk nicely to the stewards to see would they let me in and they always did even though all the games were all sold out. I’d just be stuck in the middle of Dundalk fans and I loved it.
“Because you’re in the game yourself you’re asking what would I do if I was Stephen (Kenny) now and how would you combat the likes of (Axel) Witsel’s ability and all that kind of craic.
“To actually have a voice now and possibly have a bit of influence on what we would do in those kind of scenarios if we were trying to figure out how we stop Harry Kane or whoever else we’d find ourselves against in the group stages if we did manage to pull it off on Thursday night. How could you not absolutely love that?
“The setup Vinny had didn’t require me having a huge amount of input and that was completely fair. He asked me to do a role and I did it for him as best I could but the new setup requires more input and more involvement from me and naturally enough when anybody is involved in something a bit more then they enjoy it a bit more. I’m just loving it at the moment because it’s a fantastic dressing room and they’re a brilliant group of lads,” he said.