Keilor coach Mick McGuane was full of admiration for the return of Nick O’Kearney in Essendon District Football League premier division on Saturday.
McGuane’s young charge made a healthy return to the field for the Blues – of paramount importance after a neck injury put his football career on hold in round 15 last season – and played a starring role in a 60-point win over Glenroy in the season opener at Sewell Reserve.
“The way he assaulted the footy today, you would never have thought he had an injury of that magnitude,” McGuane said.
“He was just a delight to watch.”
O’Kearney was sorely missed by Keilor in last year’s grand final loss to Aberfeldie – just as the young midfielder desperately missed football during the time he spent on the sidelines.
There was no holding back O’Kearney once he got the green light to return to training. O’Kearney’s fearless endeavour to training had McGuane thinking he would be impossible to keep out of the round one action.
“I’ve known this kid since he was probably 12 years of age and it means a lot to him to play the game and play with his mates again,” McGuane said.
“I’ve been watching him at training the past four or five weeks … just watching his habits. You could tell he was going to put his hand up to play in the season opener.
“Once we got through the last two weeks after his specialist cleared him, it was all systems go.
“He had a standout game – kicked four, got a lot of possessions and used the ball well.”
Keilor showcased its talent depth in the win over Glenroy.
With a host of stars missing, McGuane had a chance to see how good the players underneath performed in the heat of a top-flight game.
“We had a very young team,” McGuane said. “We had four first gamers … three of the boys played in their third senior game and another three who played 19, 17 and 13 games respectively. We knew it was going to be a challenging day at the office, so to come away with winning the game by 10 goals was quite positive for the first game of the year.”
Keilor’s leaders came to the fore.
Dean Galea spearheaded the victory with eight goals and a number of selfless acts.
“He kicked the goals that mattered and he always does,” McGuane said.
“He was also a decoy at times, sliding in behind the opposition’s defence.
“A lot of people wouldn’t see that – and think Galea wasn’t part of that forward passage and ask why. But he understands the game and sometimes you’ve got to be selfless.”
Kane Barbuto was dominant at the clearances, while David Isbister was willing to put his body in the line of fire.
Riley Ham provided a target at centre half-forward.
Keilor will have this weekend off to prepare for a Good Friday blockbuster against Strathmore at Lebanon Reserve.
MORE EDFL NEWS