Kealan Dillon aiming for a good season with Athlone Town
From playing under-age with Athboy Celtic, Kennedy Cup with the NECSL and DDSL club Belvedere, Kealan Dillon considered packing in football completely after he returned from a four-year spell as a teenager in England and Scotland.
It was only due to a chance telephone call from former Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny that he eventually enjoyed a season with Athlone Town five years ago that proved pivotal in his return to the game he loves.
Now he is determined to help the Westmeath club climb the football ladder from the bottom of the First Division where they finished last season.
READY FOR ACTION WITH ATHLONE TOWN
“When I came back from Scotland I was completely disillusioned and was ready to pack in football,” he told the Meath Chronicle.
“I played under-age with Athboy Celtic and was in the NECSL Kennedy Cup squad before I moved to play for Belvedere in Dublin.
“I got a move to Derby County after a trial or two when I was only 16, I spent four years over there.
“I also had a spell with Hull and finished up in Scotland with St Mirren and eventually came home.
“I seriously thought about packing it in at that stage, I didn't think I was going to play anymore even though I was only 19.
“I got a phone call from Stephen Kenny one day, he was only settling in at Dundalk at the time, but he asked me to play in a game for the u-19s.
“I just decided that I'd go to the game with my father, it turned out that Harry Kenny (current St Pat's manager) was at the game, he was assistant-manager at Athlone at the time with Mick Cooke.
“Harry knows my dad and he made the connection to me, he got talking to my dad and just asked if I'd be interested in going to Athlone .
“At the time I had been asked in for trials with some of the other Dublin clubs, but if I was going to start again I wanted play, not sit on the bench.
“After thinking about it I decided to go to Athlone where I would have a good chance of playing, that's what it's about as far as I'm concerned, playing football.
“My grandfather ** Clem Dillon played in the League of Ireland for Shelbourne and Limerick and a few other teams so there is a tradition there I suppose,” he added.
KEALAN DILLON PLAYING FOR BOHS
Now, some five years and a few clubs later, Dillon is eagerly looking forward to the new season and the first game this Friday night against Wexford as he starts his second stint with the club that revived his passion for the game.
“I was with Athlone for the 2014 season, but we made a terrible start and they changed the manager, Keith Long who is now at Bohs came in, we were in the Premier that year, but we were relegated.
“I had a season with Bohs and two years at Longford before going to Drogheda last season which was Tim Clancy's first year as manager there.
“It was a good season for Drogheda and we went close to getting promotion, but just came up a bit short against Finn Harps in the second leg of the play-off in Ballybofey.
“The First Division will be very competitive this year and my aim this season will be to make an impact with Athlone.
“There are great people involved with the club and it should be a more exciting season for everyone in comparison to what they endured last year.
“I think we have a good panel, my immediate target is to play in every game if I can. I didn't get as many games as I had hoped for at Drogheda last year and that's what I want to do, play football and I feel I will get that chance at Athlone.
“The facilities are good, a great stadium, good facilities for the players also and we get well looked after by the club.
“The new pitch is excellent, it will take a bit of time to bed in, but it's a good surface to play on,” he added.
KEALAN DILLON AT A LAUNCH OF DARKNESS INTO LIGHT IN AID OF PIETA HOUSE
While he has rekindled his passion for football, he is not depending on it for a living and works in Navan in the insurance business.
“I'm not playing with Athlone for the money, I want to play at the highest level and I want to play in the League of Ireland for as long as I can, I want to test myself against the best,” he said.
“The friendlies were good also as we played teams from the Premier over the last few weeks and now it's all systems go for the visit of Wexford on Friday night.
“Athlone manager Terry Butler has plenty of knowledge about the League.
“He managed in the Leinster Senior League and he has experience in the League of Ireland with the likes of Pete Mahon, Roddy Collins and Aaron Callaghan.
“I'm enjoying my football so far, but it has been a long break since we finished last October, the off-season is too long really and then there is break mid-season, it's a shorter season in the First Division.
“My objective would be to get back to playing Premier football and it would be great to get to play in Europe as well.
“It's something that doesn't look like a good bet at the moment, but you never know with football, where you might go, you have to be optimistic,” he concluded.
Athlone Town defeated Dundalk 1-0 in the Leinster Senior Cup at Oriel Park on Monday night
** Clem Dillon was on the Limerick team that won the League of Ireland title in the 1959 / 1960 season