KEIGHLEY RUFC head coach Dan McGee has been cheered by his side’s solid start to the season, as he gets back into the swing of things after being sidelined for a few months by illness.

In McGee’s absence, he was grateful for the dedication and hard work put in by right-hand man James Cunliffe, as well as the other coaches at the club.

Keighley sit second in the Counties One Yorkshire table with four wins and one defeat, as they head into a clash this Saturday at leaders West Leeds.

After a challenging time, McGee told the Keighley News: “It’s a strong set-up we have here, and I can’t thank the club and coaches enough, especially Cunny, who’s been my right-hand man since day one.

“We have an enjoyable relationship where we can talk and challenge each other.

“We’re usually on the same page but we can have difficult conversations on selection and it’s always a good debate.

“He stepped up as head coach and it’s been good to have a man I could trust in my absence.”

That support network around McGee has been instrumental in Keighley’s strong start, with McGee saying: “We’ve won four out of five, and looking at our fixtures, only two of our first six are at home.

“We’ve played tough away games too, winning at Hullensians and Wetherby, and it’s another big match at West Leeds this weekend.

“We’ve only had one loss, and we should have won that game at Old Rishworthian, but I’m happy with where we’re at.

“I still think we have a lot to do performance-wise, and we haven’t put in a full 80-minute display this year.

“We’re not quite firing in attack and are making mistakes at crucial times.”

The absence of Sean Kelly has not helped with that, the prolific centre ruled out for the season with a shoulder injury.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Sean Kelly (green, grounded) is going to be a huge miss for Keighley this season.Sean Kelly (green, grounded) is going to be a huge miss for Keighley this season. (Image: JT Sports Media.)

And his team-mates face a tough task at unbeaten West Leeds, but McGee said: “We’re just as focused on them as those that are there or thereabouts towards the top of the table.

“With who’s beaten who so far this season, it’s been all over the place.

“West Leeds have been the most consistent so far though, and they’re playing some great rugby.

“We’ve had some good battles with them over the years, and lost their last season, so we know it’ll be tough.”

The clash at West Leeds comes after a fortnight’s break, with Keighley receiving a walkover win last weekend in the Yorkshire Shield.

The historic Yorkshire cup competitions have had multiple teams pull out over the last few years, and asked if that was a concern, McGee said: “We had some tough conversations over the Yorkshire cups in pre-season, and what we ought to do.

“With the league restructure, we have four league games less than we used to, which means less revenue for us.

“We wanted to fill the fixture list, as well as balancing that with giving the players rest, and felt it would good for us to have the Yorkshire Shield this year.

“A lot of work is needed on the structure of the cups though, as the Papa John’s national comp was a bit of a farce last season, as you’d only find out who you were playing the week before and it could be miles away.

“We were given a fixture in it after no game for six weeks, so we pulled out as it was no good for player welfare.

“You don’t want to travel for the Yorkshire cups at the end of the season either and that meant we got to the semis last year without even playing.

“But we are looking forward to facing Leodiensians in the next round of the Shield this November now and while it’s a tournament we’ll take seriously, it gives us a chance to see what some of our Stags and Colts can do too.”