Pro deal with Pat's targets third level education for Keeley

Scarcely a month after helping St Patrick's Athletic to the SSE Airtricity National u-19 League title, Dunboyne teenager Josh Keeley has signed his first professional contract with the Inchicore club.

Goalkeeper Keeley, checking in at 6ft 3'', was between the posts as St Pat's recorded a 2-1 extra-time win against Dublin neighbours Bohemian FC in late December as the National under-age Leagues were concluded despite the problems that arose from Covid-19 restrictions.

This development is a real plus for young players as League of Ireland clubs can now guarantee a pathway to both the highest level of the game combined with a third level education after Leaving Certificate..

For St Pat's it means an opportunity through the club's Academy structure and a link with Maynooth University and Josh Keeley aims to continue his education after completing his Leaving Certificate this year at St Peter's College, Dunboyne.

Last month's success with St Pat's completed a hat-trick of titles for Josh Keeley as he had previously won a u-15 League and Cup, a u-17 League tile and then last December the u-19 success.

He joined an elite group of four (three other players plus Josh) who have achieved that feat in consecutive years.

Josh was also eligible for the u-17 grade last year, but he was promoted to the 19s as part of his overall development and he was up to the demands and the challenge.

He has played for the Republic of Ireland at u-16 and u-17 grades on a dozen occasions.

Last year he was a member of the squad that qualified for the UEFA u-17 European Elite Phase that was due to be held in Scotland in March, but was cancelled due to Covid.

At schoolboy level he won a u-13 SFAI Cup with Belvedere and followed that with a u-14 runner-up medal with the top Dublin club.

He has a glove sponsorship deal with Precision (Reydon Sports) and has had trials with Everton, Leicester City, Aston Villa on two occasions and most recently Aberdeen and continues to attract interest from the Premier League teams in the UK.

However, he has opted to follow the League of Ireland Pathway with St Pat's / Maynooth University despite a number of offers from the UK.That will enable him to pursue his education and combine it with his soccer.

Athboy man Jamie McGrath followed a similar pathway when he was with St Pat's before moving to Dundalk and now he is banging in the goals for St Mirren in the Scottish Premiership, but he completed his education and progressed in the League of Ireland without moving to the UK.

Goalkeeping is in the Keeley family as Josh's dad, Brendan, played between the posts for Irish League side Newry Town before embarking on a career in business.

Josh's older brother Conor this week signed a two-and-a-half-year deal with Irish League side Ballymena Utd after spending four seasons in the League of Ireland with Cabinteely in the heart of the defence although he is also a useful goalkeeper.

More about Conor Keeley's progress in a separate story.

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