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Will Keegan get what he deserves?

Sport

ONE OF THE GREATS Mayo’s Lee Keegan tries to go past Tyrone’s Niall Sludden during last month’s All-Ireland SFC Final. Pic: Sportsfile

The Way I See It
Ger Flanagan

COME the night of December 10, when the ‘Footballer of the Year’ is announced, Lee Keegan deserves to win it for the second time.
The Westport man was back to his brilliant best this year in the full-back line. He showed all the attributes that won him his first; man-marking, driving forward, getting important scores and producing on the biggest days.
That swashbuckling and all-action style that looks so effortless and care-free when in full flight. His animal-like mentality on the field, but his gentleman class off it.
Keegan is a freak of nature. Any former team-mate from the recent era often talk about how he’s the best player they’ve ever played with. He’s rightfully being called the greatest Mayo footballer ever.
Seeing him up close in club football, he’s a generational talent.
Unfortunately, though, I’m not sure if he’ll get the award this year.
Although the players are voting for the ‘Footballer of the Year’ in 2021, and you’d like to think that having two Tyrone players in Kieran McGeary and Conor Meyler in the running might split their pool and be the difference.
However, I think Mayo’s very poor display in the All-Ireland Final will rob him of the victory.
I know Keegan was arguably the man of the match in the game (without doubt for Mayo), but I think there is going to be a lingering anti-Mayo sentiment in the voting.
Just analysing the general mood outside the county, it is much changed to the defeats of 2016 and 2017 when Keegan and Andy Moran won POY awards.
Back then there was much admiration and respect for Mayo after losing to Dublin, a bit of hurt for all neutral supporters that they pushed the greatest team ever but fell so agonisingly short.
2021 is different.
There’s no admiration really. People, and I’d imagine a lot of the inter-county players, are fed up of another hard luck story. Mayo were exactly where they wanted to be – an All-Ireland Final against neither Dublin or Kerry – and they failed to capture the big prize.
Plus, we love our stats in the GAA right now and Kieran McGeary – who I believe will win it — is a stats man’s darling.
If you manage to rack up high possessions, you look great, and McGeary is a workaholic in that free role that allows him to get on so much ball.
Don’t get me wrong, McGeary is a quality player who enjoyed an excellent season for Tyrone. But did he really outperform Keegan? I don’t think so.
Conor Meyler has been lauded for his performances that are filled with unfashionable work – tracking the likes of Paddy Durcan and Paudie Clifford and being disciplined in that wing forward role.
But Keegan has made that role his bread and butter over the last few years, adding that sweet jam over the top with his influence to hurt teams at the other end as well, something Meyler didn’t really do.
I genuinely hope I’m wrong, but that’s how I see it going.
I’d also really like to see Stephen Coen pick up an All Star award.
It will be difficult, given how competitive that half-back line is going to be, but Coen had an outstanding year.
The Hollymount/Carramore man is the professional of all professionals when it comes to his game and his CV speaks volumes for that.
He’s also been much maligned as a Mayo footballer, doubted because of his lack of pace and his versatility. But he’s clearly never been fazed by that and produced his best year in a senior jersey for Mayo yet and dispelled the myth that you need blinding pace to play inter-county football.
We did some work with Coen a few months back as part of our ‘Born Into It’ GAA campaign with Intersport Elverys and I spent a day of shooting with him on his family farm in Lehinch. He’s nothing short of a gent off the field, and a trojan for work when he’s on it.
James Horan could do worse than having him as his vice captain, or indeed captain, in the next year or two.

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