After injury and lock down put the brakes on her career just as things were taking off for club and country, Keeva Keenan says she "finally feels like a professional footballer", as a new and exciting season looms.
Keenan's enforced layoff preceded the shutdown brought on by Coronavirus as she nursed an injury picked up at the tail end of the 2019 season shortly before agreeing her first ever professional contract.
And on linking back up with the Celts following travelling with the Irish national team to Germany for their Euro qualifier, she admits the nod was the confidence boost she needed ahead of a new era at Celtic.
"It was really tough at the start of the year," Keenan explained.
"It was a long nine months that I’ve been out. As I felt like I was getting somewhere, it was setback, then setback and then lock down, so I felt like I was never going to get going again. When I heard I was getting the shout for camp, even though I was going as the 24th player, that alone was massive for me. That was a confidence boost for Vera (Pauw) to want me to travel even though I was coming back from injury, so to be then added into the match day squad was huge. I feel like it's something I would have needed for coming back from injury. It let me know I can push on from it and get going again."
The fullback also described how the international camp helped ease her back into normality ahead of the domestic preseason programme, but also how the quality littered in the Irish squad forced her to get up to speed immediately.
"I massively struggled with lock down like many did, so to get back out and in about the girls and have that bit of normality in training everyday, non-stop football for a week, it really, really set me up for coming back into Celtic where you train six days a week. It was good to sort out the head.
"I’m away with girls who are with big, big clubs and are all phenomenal footballers, so you have to lift yourself to that massive standard, and I like to think that I did reasonably well in a standard like that, that you’re forced to step into. I felt like I was quite sharp from being away in camp while the girls were in here," she added.
And having witnessed the now aborted 2020 campaign from the sidelines, Keenan now can't wait to reclaim her spot in the starting eleven, and realise her potential as a professional footballer.
"It’s huge. At the start it was a struggle to turn up to some of the sessions when I was injured, I felt like I was plucking at straws, I was in but couldn't actually do anything. Some days I was running or in the gym, but at times I was standing watching, and that’s not easy. It’s frustrating and hard to come and feel like you’re not getting anywhere, and with the full-time players it felt to me like they were in 24/7 and I couldn’t get involved, so to finally get going, it feels like I'm actually a professional footballer now.
"I feel like I actually have the professional footballer status, because I’m in properly with the rest of them," she told.
Image / Source: Celtic FC