THE FIRST OF MANY Lee Keegan is pictured with his first All-Star award back in 2012. He would go on to win five during his illustrious career. Pic: Sportsfile
Defender Keegan steps away as one of the all-time greats and Mayo’s finest ever player
Speculation has been rife for months about footballer Lee Keegan’s future, but the news no Mayo GAA fan wanted to hear became a reality yesterday morning. The Westport man confirmed via the Mayo GAA website that he is retiring from inter-county football.
After a career spanning twelve glorious seasons, the man affectionately known as ‘Leeroy’, walks away with his head held high, having given stellar service to the green and red.
It would be no exaggeration to say a tear will have come to many a fan’s eye on hearing the news, such is the love for Keegan among Mayo’s fanatical following. Keegan played a remarkable 140 times for Mayo, putting him fifth on the all-time list, and his list of achievements during his career is quiet remarkable. We all know he has to walk away without a Celtic cross, but that will in no way taint a legacy that will endure for many years to come.
He is the only player from Connacht to win five All-Star awards, and his 2016 Footballer of the Year award is testimony to his remarkably ability, winning it despite the fact he was up against players from perhaps the best team of all-time in Dublin.
No one will ever forget Keegan’s enduring battles with Diarmuid Connolly in Croke Park, duel’s that were talked about throughout the sporting world, and not just here in Ireland.
What really set Keegan apart, though, was his natural ability. He could have played in any position on the pitch. He was one of the best man-markers the game has ever seen, but his forays up the field and his score-taking abilities were truly a joy to behold.
He scored seven goals and 48 points in his 67 championship appearances and a number of those were clutch scores that were kicked under all sorts of pressure.
Keegan obviously struggled for some time with the decision but ultimately, as he said himself in his statement, he is now no longer able to commit to inter-county football in the way he did over the past eleven years. He is not the type of guy to play football in second gear, for Keegan it is all or nothing.
It will be tough on his team-mates, it will be tough on Kevin McStay, but this is the beginning of a new era for Mayo football – and in that way it’s perhaps the perfect time for Mayo football to be planning for life without Lee Keegan.
Having just enjoyed perhaps the highlight of his career by claiming a first ever senior county title with his club Westport, it is also fitting that he can now turn his focus solely to his club, and spend the time freed up by his retirement by looking after the three women in his life, his wife, Aoife, and daughters, Lile and Rhea.
He’ll also be able to relax that bit more now and enjoy a pint in his local Toby’s while the inter-county season is in full flow for the first half of 2023. As he said, he’ll now be cheering from the terraces as Mayo take to the field.
All we can say here in The Mayo News is that it was a joy to cover your remarkable eleven-year career. Thanks for the memories Leeroy.