“I’ve made some real friends for life and made memories that will stay with me forever” – Ruairi Keating
Matty Hayward – @MattyHayward96
A great man once said, “wherever you go tell me ’cause I’m gonna show; we found love, so don’t fight it, life is a rollercoaster, just gotta ride it.” Pertinent words, there, from Ronan Patrick John Keating. Words which, I feel, capture the emotions of a number of Torquay fans when they heard the news that Ronan’s nephew would be joining Gateshead last Friday.
Ruairi is, in many ways, a fascinating player and has already had a fascinating career at the age of 24: he’s played in two countries, now four leagues, two very different positions, and experienced a relegation, a near relegation and been crowned a champion. We’ve been through a lot together, us and Ruairi. The rollercoaster analogy feels too obvious, but the highs of the club’s first ever title win contrast starkly with the lows of the club’s first ever relegation from the fifth tier. He’s seen Plainmoor at its venomous, toxic worst, and stayed with us to see it at its bustling, joyous best.
What I find interesting about Ruairi is that he sticks out as a player who gives his absolute all – to the extent that he’s probably got the best work rate of any Torquay player I’ve ever seen – and yet I don’t think that’s what he’ll be remembered for. I reckon, in five years’ time when we’re in the pub discussing “those days in the Conference – corrr I much prefer League One”, we’ll remember Ruairi for great individual moments and performances.
It’s fair to say that Keating played a huge part in some enormous games in this club’s history, both keeping us up in 2017 and helping us to promotion in 2019. That late winner at Southport – his first for the Gulls; the goal at Lincoln which we thought had won us the game; coming on at half time at East Thurrock to make one goal and score another; that ridiculous performance at home to Chelmsford to put us seven points clear at the top before Woking (a); and that delicious through ball to Reidy for the first equaliser at Kingfield.
With all this in mind, though, perhaps the epitome of Ruairi Keating’s Gulls career can be seen in his last ever performance for us. He came on at Fylde for about five minutes and absolutely ran his socks off and won every header. A player who perhaps was never given a fair chance, Ruairi was by no means our most technically gifted player, but what he lacked in that department he made up for in desire and magic moments.
He’s also, by all accounts, a thoroughly nice lad. Ruairi has spent the last two years wearing the number seven shirt. Naturally, then, I slipped into his DMs this week and asked him six questions about his time at the club.
MH – Your move to Plainmoor seemed a bit out of the blue – what attracted you to the club in the first place?
RK – It was a massive opportunity for me to come to England and play. I’ve always wanted to be in the UK playing football. And once I came over and spoke to Nicho and had a couple days training I knew right away this is what I wanted and was raring to go and get myself about and make a name for myself.
Life was a rollercoaster for you at Torquay. Talk us through a couple of your favourite moments in a Yellows shirt.
It sure was. I had an unbelievable three months when I first signed in 2017, playing, scoring and avoiding relegation was probably my highlight of my time here. I loved working under Nicho. The next season was full of hope and expectations but it wasn’t to be. And it was disaster from there if I’m being completely honest.
After being in such a good place mentally and physically with one manager it completely changed. After being on such a high since arriving, I struggled with certain things mentally. I wasn’t enjoying it at the time and I was missing home. It was a tough period for me. I fought on as I do but after it all I was devastated we failed to keep the club in the division and without question I was determined to stay. I felt I owed it to the fans who were so good to me during my time at Torquay and I owed it to the club for giving me the wonderful opportunity of playing over here.
Thankfully, after a terrible start we enjoyed some of our best football when Gary Johnson came in and bounced straight back. That was an achievement in itself for the fans and the club after what had gone on. That was a great time, the battle with Woking and the run in on our way to winning the league. I’ve made some real friends for life and made memories that will stay with me forever.
But my favourite moments were my first goal against Southport, avoiding relegation, coming off the bench at 1-0 down against East Thurrock away and setting up the equaliser and scoring the winner in a vital game for us. Winning the league of course. Scoring in a pre-season friendly against Premier League Cardiff City, to name a few.
What was your favourite Torquay goal and why?
I’m going to go with my last one for Torquay, against Woking in December. It was a special moment for me personally after the injury I sustained the year before that ended my season. My whole family were there to watch and it was pretty much my last game for the club. It was a very nice finish to top everything off.
Who was the best player you played with for the Yellows?
Jamie Reid. No question. He’s got unbelievable ability with the ball at his feet, I’ve never seen anyone strike a ball like him. Not only is he a great player, he’s also a great guy and he’s like a brother to me. He was the first I mingled with and we stayed together until the end. He will be playing in the Championship someday that’s a fact.
Under Gary Johnson you were often employed as a winger. How did you feel about that? Did you prefer playing up front?
I didn’t mind it really, I definitely had to adapt because I’m the complete opposite of a winger. But I took it on board, studied it at home every night and made sure I knew what I was doing and what I needed to do. After that I just gave it my all, I tried to defend as best I could, assist my teammates as best I could and score as many as I could.
People forget I’m an out and out target man so playing as a winger was totally different. I was being judged on my games in that position and my goal scoring record wasn’t ideal for obvious reasons. But it’s definitely given me more confidence with the ball at my feet and it brought me great experience going forward. But yeah, I definitely prefer playing as a centre forward. That’s where you get the best out of me.
And finally, what’s your favourite Boyzone/Ronan song?
Life Is A Rollercoaster, of course. It’s my initiation everywhere I go and it definitely describes my life in football perfectly.
MH – I’m grateful to the Irish Ibrahimovic for his honest and detailed responses. One thing’s for sure, the average attractiveness of our team has plummeted this week – Jean and Ruairi will take some replacing on that front. Everyone at TT wishes our Champions the very best. Always Yellows.