Lee Keegan talks "harsh criticism", Diarmuid Connolly and #ThingsLeeDid

All-Star Footballer of the Year talks in-depth after another year in which Mayo got close

Lee Keegan, Mayo

Lee Keegan of Mayo ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Lee Keegan has branded some of the post-All-Ireland criticism of Mayo as "harsh" and insists that he won't be changing the way he plays the game.

The 2016 All Star Footballer of the Year was famously the subject of a trending and tongue in cheek Twitter hashtag called #ThingsLeeDid ahead of the All-Ireland final replay against Dublin.

While Keegan kept his phone switched off in the build-up, the scrutiny around him led by former Dublin players did not go unnoticed.

"You can turn off your phone but news travels fast. Of course I've heard the goings on but that's something that's completely out of my mind. Of course, it's going to influence certain aspects of the game - people have either criticised me or supported me in the way I got black carded. At the end of the day, the referee made a decision. I can't turn back time and tell Maurice 'don't give me the black card,'" he said on Off The Ball.

Keegan said he won't be changing the way he plays, adding that "I'm not out there to make friends or be a nice guy. Nice guys don't win All-Irelands unfortunately. Other teams have players that do worse things than I do and they don't get criticised for what they do".

He also pointed out that, from his point of view, "Dublin do what they have to do to win games" for example and "from a Dublin media point of view they should know as much as anyone, because they do the dark arts as well as us".

As for Diarmuid Connolly, he spoke of the "utmost respect" he has for a player he has had many an intense battle with on the pitch.

The 27-year-old also spoke about the hard luck perception of the Mayo team. 

"Obviously as the years have gone past, it doesn't get easier to be honest. People say it's a hard luck story with Mayo. I kind of find that a bit of a farce to be honest," he said.

"There's 30 teams out there that could be in the same position as us but they're not. We're there every year challenging. People say that there's a hoodoo with Dublin but we've beaten Dublin before in the semi-final and league games.

"People tend to think it's this hard luck Mayo story. That's not the way we think. We're a very ambitious, young group that are striving to be the best, striving to get to greatness and unfortunately we've come up against a side in Dublin that have been an outstanding team that just know how to win games, pull away and play different styles in games. I've huge admiration for Jim Gavin and that side. To win four All-Irelands in six years, you can't take that lightly. They will probably go down as one of the great teams."

 

Mayo's Lee Keegan with Aoife Duffy ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

There has been criticism of the Mayo team from certain quarters including from Joe Brolly but Keegan, who says he takes little notice of that, had a response to that: "Opinions are for people who get paid for it".

On Kieran Shannon, he said, "It would be unfair for Kieran to criticise us as he was involved with us so I'd kind of find that funny from that point of view to be honest because he should know better than anyone the effort that goes on in the squad".

But he said he has admiration and respect for Shannon.

But Keegan added that some criticism of the players' commitment, for example, can "go over the top" given that they are amateur players after all. 

"For the media to judge us in that light is quite harsh," he said.

"Because within the group, we train as hard as anyone. We train the exact same as Dublin - three, four, five times a week and we have to travel up to different locations to meet because we have so many players based in different counties."

He added that: "Some of the criticism as a team is justified. But when it comes down to individual and personal attacks, I wouldn't be to happy with that".  

As for being named the best footballer of 2016 at last Friday's All-Star awards, Keegan is honoured to be viewed in that light.

"It was brilliant to be recognised by players that you kick lumps out of for nine months of the year. So I'm hugely honoured. It's a really prestigious award to win," he said. 

"For myself, it's amazing and obviously for my club and family. They're absolutely over the moon. Being the first one from Mayo, it's not to be taken lightly by myself."