Mark Keane’s game-icing mark against Carlton on the weekend may have looked straight forward, but it was born from an immense amount of off-season work, some of which was done back home in Ireland.

From running in the pouring rain on a track in his hometown County Cork as part of his AFL off-season training plan, to lining up with his local Gaelic club Mitchelstown, Keane’s journey has been significant.

But it’s one that he wouldn’t change.

“I guess my journey has been a bit of a rollercoaster,” Keane said.

“I’ve made my debut for four different teams (Collingwood and the Crows in the AFL, with Cork Senior Hurlers and Cork Senior Footballers), over the past four years,” Keane said.

“It’s been a crazy, hectic schedule, but sitting here now, hoping to cement myself in Adelaide’s backline.”

The 24-year-old said he was always going to head back to Ireland during the 2023 off-season and was grateful he had the Crows’ full support to play Gaelic again.

“I was hoping to go out and play a bit of hurling but they lost a quarter final the weekend I was due to be flying home, which was a pity because it would’ve been good to play a preliminary final with them,” Keane said.

“I was back home for about eight or 10 weeks and I got to play some Gaelic footy for my local football team.

“We lost the Grand Final but I’m grateful to both Clubs (Crows and Mitchelstown) for letting me play.”

Despite playing Gaelic, Keane said his AFL off-season fitness plan was never far from his mind and worked hard to tick every box, so he could return to Crows headquarters fit and ready for 2024.

“I was doing my AFL schedule in the morning and then training with the Gaelic team in the evening,” Keane said.

“I think training with a group rather than just by myself really helped and made it a lot easier for me.

“Running as part of my AFL schedule was pretty hard to do on grass because the ovals usually get waterlogged, so I was running a lot more on a track and on an astro turf pitch.”

Keane, who until six years ago “knew nothing about” Australian Rules football, has enjoyed a solid start to his second season with the Crows, averaging 18.7 disposals, 7.7 marks across four games.

And his highlights include that match-saving mark during the dying seconds of the Crows’ clash with Carlton.

“I have played four games in a row now, so hopefully I can continue to build on that,” Keane said.

“I’m not too sure I’ve cemented my spot, but I am going towards that.

“The more games I play, the more confident I feel. Every week as a key defender, I never really feel settled because there’s always a really good key forward out there.”

Adelaide has turned its attention to its match against Essendon at Adelaide Oval on Friday night and Keane said it was important for the side to keep its momentum going. 

“To win away from home was very promising, so we just need to build on what we’ve done the past two weeks,” Keane said.

“There were some good signs against Melbourne and some very good signs against Carlton.

“We just keep building and hopefully get another win against a very good Essendon team.”

Adelaide plays Essendon at Adelaide Oval on Friday night at 7.10pm.

Tickets available here.