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I’d have to tune into the NFL if Mark signed for someone – Patrick O’Keane on Wicklow ’keeper’s American dream


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Jackson has been back in training with Oisín McConville’s squad in recent weeks but his participation for the summer is not certain, according to team-mate Patrick O’Keane.

“I don’t know, it depends,” O’Keane said of whether Jackson might make a return for the Garden side. “Ultimately, there is still the potential that he might be signed by the NFL for one of the teams.

“Obviously, he’s still doing kicking and stuff like that with some of those guys. To be honest, I don’t know off the top of my head. He’s still very much interested in NFL, I think.

“He’s probably going to get more offers, or maybe potentially he will get offers if he goes back across at some stage. He’s been training the last little bit, yeah, he’s been training with us.

“He’s been involved the last little while. I think he was originally planning to come back for more kicking with a specific team so I think that’s all I can say on that.”

Down goalkeeper Charlie Smyth has already broken the mould having signed a three-year deal as a kicker with the New Orleans Saints as part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway program.

It would be a tough pill for Wicklow to swallow if they did lose their long-standing goalkeeper but O’Keane would turn into an NFL fan overnight if Jackson was drafted to the US.

“I’d be upset in terms of him playing NFL because he’s a massive player for Wicklow and has been for years. Even throughout this league campaign, he was a big loss for us,” O’Keane said.

“He used to take a lot of our long-range frees and he’s obviously incredibly accurate. If he does get signed, that’s unfortunate for us but brilliant for him.

“I’d have the utmost respect for him and it would be a brilliant thing. It would be brilliant and I’d definitely have to tune in then if he did sign for someone, definitely.”

O’Keane is intent on building on a positive Leinster SFC campaign where Wicklow produced a sensational victory over Division 3 league champions Westmeath before Kildare edged them out.

That quarter-final defeat was a “lost opportunity” but the St Patrick’s defender feels that they are “definitely where we want to be” as they look to make a burst in the second-tier championship.

First up tomorrow is a trip north to play Fermanagh in Brewster Park and O’Keane – a physio in Tallaght University Hospital – insists that victory over 2022 Tailteann Cup winners Westmeath has “added a bit of belief that we’re well capable of competing in this competition”.

O’Keane has been involved in two promotions from Division 4 during his Wicklow career, as well as a handful of round one victories in Leinster but he craves more championship wins.

That Tailteann Cup is the perfect opportunity for Wicklow to achieve that.

“In the last five years, we’ve won the first round in Leinster four times, and they are big games. It’s just something now that we’d love to be in a Leinster semi-final,” O’Keane said.

“Definitely those are highlights, those big games but ultimately we want to work on those and this is definitely a competition for it. These games will all be tight, I feel, and definitely an opportunity for us.

“We haven’t played Fermanagh now in two years since we met down in Aughrim on a very windy day (it finished level in their Division 3 clash). We have been watching footage on them and we’ll definitely have our work cut out for us.

“But we’re very much hopeful that we’ll go to Fermanagh and hopefully bring back a win and then we’re into Laois the following weekend.”

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