We Need To Talk About Ian Keatley
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Ian Keatley hasn’t always been Munster’s favourite son. The playmaker has struggled in recent seasons to make a mark, having been brought in to fill the rather big shoes of Ronan O’Gara. He’s come under fire on a number of occasions for some poor performances and as a result of this, Tyler Bleyendaal was brought in.
The New Zealander struggled with injury to begin with, but pushed Keatley out of the team last season after string of excellent performances.
After the announcement of JJ Hanrahan’s return to Thomond Park, it seemed that Keatley would be forced even further down the pecking order, with a move to the English Premiership or even the Top 14 discussed in the summer before he signed a new deal. However, after Bleyendaal’s recent lapse in form, and Hanrahan potentially set to be used as a utility cover, could it be Keatley’s year?
His performance against Cardiff Blues on Saturday was sensational. Some of his passing and management of the backs on the day, can and has been compared to that of Beauden Barrett. Just look at his control of the backline in the build up to Hanrahan’s second try. His kicking, which has infamously been subject to booing in the past, was near flawless, having only missed one of his 7 kicks at goal. He thoroughly deserved his man of the match award and his performance will no doubt have caught the eye of Ireland boss Joe Schmidt.
Keatley already has a few Ireland caps to his name, and was brought in for a few cameos at this year’s Six Nations due to injuries. With Paddy Jackson and Ian Madigan unavailable next month, and Joey Carbery settling in nicely at fullback, Keatley is the only senior fly-half outside of Johnny Sexton available to Schmidt for next month’s November internationals.
While he might not be the cemented 2nd choice fly-half in the years to come, he might just be it for this year. Obviously, this depends if Schmidt sees Carbery as a ten or not, and how well he rates Ross Byrne, but Keatley will be right up there.
It will be interesting to see how his next few games go, and if he starts next weekend against Leinster over Bleyendaal. At 30 years of age, might we finally be about to see Keatley fulfil his potential?