Diarmuid Connolly Pays Tribute To Lee Keegan In Wake Of Retirement
Many people would put the Diarmuid Connolly and Lee Keegan rivalry up at the very top of gaelic football rivalries of the last twenty years.
Dublin legend Connolly has praised Keegan’s influence after the Mayo man announced his retirement from inter-county football ahead of the 2023 season.
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Keegan Names Connolly His Toughest Opponent
The pair were often found in close quarters during the fierce rivalry between the two counties in the 2010s and five-time All-Star Keegan recently singled out Connolly as his toughest opponent having found himself on the losing side in four All-Ireland finals at the hands of Dublin between 2013 and 2020.
Now Connolly has returned the compliment, saying his old foe will be a significant loss for the Mayo side.
“What a season he had last year,” Connolly told BoyleSports. “He was probably Mayo’s standout player to me.”
“It was a bit of a shock to me to see him hang up the boots so early to be honest.”
Mutual Respect In One Of The Great Gaelic Football Rivalries
Connolly played most of his football for the great Dublin team of the 2010’s from the half forward line where he caused nightmares for opposing defenders with his ability to ping balls over the bar from both his left and right boot anywhere within 60 yards of goal.
Keegan was Mayo’s premier half-back which meant he always drew the assignment of the opposition’s best forward. This paved the way for the titanic tussles between the two great players which became an eagerly anticipated almost annual matchup towards the climax of the All-Ireland Championship season.
He’s a guy I really admire; when he played at number five he was really hard to stop, he took your focus because he liked going forward a bit and getting on the scoreboard.
Connolly Recalls Moment Of Magic From Keegan
The Mayo man was not only one of the best man markers in the country but he was also the best attacking wing back of his generation. These elite attacking and defensive abilities made Keegan the Footballer of the Year in 2016 and Connolly recalls one of the key moments from that year’s final when Keegan showed off just how dangerous he was in attack.
He caught me on the hop in the All-Ireland Final replay in 2016 when he got a goal off the run of play and that can knock you for six.
“We were lucky to win that game; they didn’t get over the line against us, so it may be disappointing for him never to get a Celtic Cross medal.”
But I have great memories of playing guys like that. He may have been sent to man-mark me, but sometimes I ended up doing the marking.
“A lot of sides went defensive against us, but to be fair to Mayo they went toe-to-toe and that’s why the games were so exciting and often so close.”
Keegan Calls Connolly The Better Player
Speaking on The Mayo Football Podcast in the wake of his retirement, Keegan humbly stated “I knew he was better than me” when speaking of Connolly. The Dublin legend took the chance to reply to those comments with the utmost respect to his former rival.
I don’t believe I was a better player than Lee Keegan, I just played a different game. He was a top player for the Mayo side and they’ll miss him this season.
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