Zebre v Glasgow: Ian Keatley eyes opportunity to make his mark with Warriors

Veteran Irish stand-off is hoping to make his Glasgow Warriors debut against Zebre this coming weekend

The Glasgow Warriors squad during training. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
The Glasgow Warriors squad during training. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

TWO months into his six-month contract with Glasgow Warriors and Ian Keatley has still to make his first appearance for the club.

A combination of a mandatory 14-day quarantine after landing on these shores from Italy, a game being cancelled due to frost, and the earlier than expected return to action of Adam Hastings means that the Irish stand-off still hasn’t had an opportunity to show head coach Danny Wilson what he can do on the pitch, but he remains determined to earn an extension to his current short-term deal so as to be involved against next season.

“Talking to Danny before I arrived, that was a goal,” he said. “Hopefully, there’s a contract there, but first things first, I have to play – and I have to play well to really push the question.”

18 years on .. memories of Aberdeen Grammar’s tilt at glory

Danny Wilson relaxed as Adam Hastings awaits disciplinary hearing date

2021 World Cup in New Zealand to be postponed for one year

At 33, Keatley might no longer be in the first flush of youth, but the well-travelled former Leinster, Connacht, Munster, London Irish and Benetton playmaker – who picked up seven caps for Ireland during an eight-year spell between 2009 and 2017 – believes he still has plenty to offer both as a player in his own right and as a mentor to Ross Thompson, as the 21-year-old makes his way in the professional game.

“The lads call me the daddy of the group but the main thing is I still love the game,” he said. “Mentally I love it and physically it’s not as if I’m going around on crutches. I’m moving well and keeping fit, so as long as I stay fit and healthy, I’d like to keep playing.

“There was a period at the start of the season when I was over at Benetton and I wasn’t enjoying it, and I was thinking: ‘This is my last year, I don’t want to play any more’. But since I’ve come here, I’ve had a new lease of life and I’m enjoying my rugby again. My family’s happy and I want to keep going. It’s the old cliche, as long as I’m still enjoying it and love playing … that’s as long as someone wants me!

“If I haven’t got any knowledge to pass on  after playing in the PRO14 for nearly 13 years, there would be something wrong,” he added. “And I’ve been pretty impressed with Ross since I came here.

“When I just arrived, he got man-of-the-match in that Edinburgh game, and he did really well when he came on against Leinster at the weekend. He’s a really great place-kicker and he’s a tidy little footballer.

“Off the field Ross is a really nice guy – really polite – while on the field he’s still a young guy learning his trade but he’s become a mature player already. I’ve only known him for two months but I can see he’s a hard worker and he goes about his business quite well.

“I don’t really consider it a rivalry at all,” Keatley continued. “Hopefully I can help him to get better, but I need to improve my game as well, and with young players like Ross coming through it kind of drives you on because you don’t want to be pushed out as the old fella. I think that’s healthy within any squad. You need strength in depth.”

Scroll down to continue reading:

Moving to a new country during lockdown can’t be easy, especially with two children under the age of four, but Keatley says that the family is settling in well.

“It’s a lovely place and in fairness to the guys on the team they’ve been really welcoming to me, and towards my family as well, so it has been great so far,” he said.

“We’ve been here for seven or eight weeks and the first few weeks were easy and nice because it was different surroundings, a new environment. We live quite near the Botanic Gardens and it’s a nice area. And while it is starting to become a bit more monotonous now because we’re doing the same things over and over, we’re still loving it.

“I know Tommy Seymour from younger days and, like me, he’s got a family with two kids so we’re keeping in touch with him and that’s made the move a lot easier for my wife and kids.”

With Hastings still wating to find out what sort of suspension he faces following his red card against Leinster last Sunday, Keatley is in the frame for his long-awaited debut against Zebre on Saturday afternoon. He is frustrated that it has been so long in coming but understands the reasons why.

“Once you’re in and around the squad you can understand the squad dynamic,” he says. “I think I was going to be involved against Benetton two weekends back, on the bench, so I could have had an opportunity there but obviously the match got cancelled.

“With Adam returning, he’s in the Scottish fray and needs game-time. When you’re an experienced player like myself you understand the dynamic between the Scottish Rugby Union and Glasgow, so I completely understand what’s happened so far. Hopefully I’ll get my opportunity to play this weekend.

“That’s all I want, really – an opportunity to play.”

Danny Wilson relaxed as Adam Hastings awaits disciplinary hearing date

About David Barnes 4028 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.