A little over a year ago, Kevin Keenan left the warm embrace of the Florida coast to return to his home town of Portlaoise for Christmas. At the time, he was halfway through the first year of a soccer scholarship in Flagler College, a palatial-like complex located in the idyllic seaside town of St Augustine.
The palm trees, year-round sunshine and the sense of opportunity on America’s east coast made Portlaoise seem another world away, which in many respects it was.
Speaking to him last year, it was clear life in Flagler College was a good fit. He was doing well in his classes, finding his feet on the playing fields, and, with a broad smile suggesting he scarcely believed what he was about to say, admitted that he sometimes did his homework while sitting next to a swimming pool. Life, it seemed, couldn’t get any better.
And then it did.
The 2011 season was the most successful in the history of Flagler College, as they went on an unprecedented run to eventually see themselves ranked as the No 5 team in NCAA Division 2 soccer. In short, one of the best college soccer teams in the country. (Divisions are decided on college size rather than team ability. Flagler has just 3,000 students).
SEE THIS WEEK’S LEINSTER EXPRESS (JANUARY 25) TO READ RORY DELANEY’S FULL INTERVIEW WITH KEVIN KEENAN