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Monday 5 December 2016

Keegan admits his 'win at all costs' playing mentality

Mayo defender insists rivalry with Connolly 'isn't personal'

At the launch in Croke Park of the Opel Ireland GAA-GPA Opel All Stars jersey, which will help raise funds for the Childhood Cancer Foundation, was Opel Footballer of the Year Lee Keegan of Mayo. Photo: Sportsfile
At the launch in Croke Park of the Opel Ireland GAA-GPA Opel All Stars jersey, which will help raise funds for the Childhood Cancer Foundation, was Opel Footballer of the Year Lee Keegan of Mayo. Photo: Sportsfile

Lee Keegan says he has "no intention of stopping the way I play," regardless of the black card he recieved in this year's All-Ireland final replay.

He is still unsure, however, whether the intense scrutiny of his methods in the preamble to that match influenced referee Maurice Deegan's decision to end his day prematurely.

"I play hard. I play as fair as possible," he insisted.

"I am there to win at all costs."

The newly-named Footballer of the Year is resolute about it all.

Defending has, he notes, become as much about the grey areas as the dark arts.

Dublin, he says, "have six backs that would do anything to win games" and Keegan adds that he doesn't have a problem with that.

Bullies

"As defenders, you just have to do what other people are not willing to do. I've no beef with that at all, I'm very comfortable in saying that.

"We're always put in the firing line for it because we're defenders," he reckons.

"Forwards are recognised for what they're doing scoring ability-wise and setting up scores and whatever.

"We just look like the bullies and the thugs because we're the ones stopping them."

It's been quite the year for Keegan, albeit one with a mournfully familiar outcome.

In the space of 12 months, he has been part of a panel that ousted their management, threw up a shambolic performance with a shock loss to Galway in Castlebar, took Dublin to a replay and lost yet another All-Ireland final.

On a personal level, he became a pantomime villain for Hill 16, a trending hashtag and lastly, Footballer of the Year.

"I don't see it as tarnished," he says of the individual award and the reaction to it.

"People have their opinions all the time and they're entitled to it. I can see why Dublin are probably a bit disappointed at not getting it.

"Obviously, the winning team usually get the Player of the Year. And I wouldn't begrudge Brian (Fenton) or Ciarán (Kilkenny) getting it because they had fantastic years for Dublin."

As for his Punch-And-Judy act with Diarmuid Connolly, Keegan is adamant the rivalry hasn't become personal.

"Reiterating that he has "nothing but respect for Diarmuid," Keegan adds: "I don't see why I should let Diarmuid run around the pitch and do what he does best.

"If I did, sure he'd be kicking six or seven points a game and I'd be looking like a dud out there.

"I'm a defender, I'm going to try and negate his influence as much as possible.

"Believe me," he adds, "I love watching him play when he's in top form but if I'm told to mark him, that's just what I had to do."

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