ACTION MAN Lee Keegan is pictured in full flight for Westport last weekend. Pic: Conor McKeown
FORMER Footballer of the Year Lee Keegan is fully focussed on Westport’s club championship campaign and says he feels ‘refreshed’ after taking a long break from football following Mayo’s defeat to Kerry in the All-Ireland quarter-final ten weeks ago.
The 32 year-old scored his first championship goal for Westport in 13 years as they beat Ballintubber in the second round of the Mayo SFC last Saturday evening.
Speaking to The Mayo News afterwards, he said he was enjoying his football.
“We put so much into the Mayo set-up, and we probably limped out against Kerry which was very disappointing, but for me, I have bigger things sometimes to worry about.
“And as disappointing as that [the Kerry defeat] was, and don’t get me wrong, it was, but it’s not my priority. My priorities have changed; it’s my family and my kids, and when I get to play football I just feel like I’m enjoying it.
“And I was really looking forward to getting back in with the club lads. I feel fresh because I got the break but, again, that comes down to Shane [Conway] and Martin [Connolly] giving me my time away, and not pressuring me to come back. And Gareth [Coughlan, Mayo physio] assessing me.
“So I feel good, but I don’t feel so good when I’m looking at 18 year-olds passing me by!
“But that’s the beautiful thing about playing football, I love seeing the freshness that’s coming through with Westport. Even with Ballintubber, they have a few nice young players that I see potential in too.
“I love seeing that, that’s what gets me excited, seeing kids coming through and trying to pass on a few things to them.”
A win for Westport over Mayo Gaels in the third round of the championship the weekend after next will send them into the quarter-finals, and keep them on course to win their first ever Mayo SFC title.
Keegan admits that he and his team-mates feel they have a point to prove after last year’s semi-final defeat to Belmullet.
“The biggest thing I suppose, when we look at last year, it was very disappointing the way we went out against Belmullet. There was a probably a lot of lads who were left with a sour taste, it felt like we had a massive opportunity that we let go. And that’s eating at a couple of lads.
“Shane and Martin aren’t afraid to change it up, and if you’re not doing the work in training then you’re not going to be playing. That’s just the simple rule.
“And if you’re not working for the team, and not working for what we’re trying to create, then you’re going to be left behind. And I think that’s probably a culture thing that we needed a bit of ourselves. And it seems to be working.
“Look, there’s still loads to work on and there’s bigger fish to fry. If we don’t focus, game in and game out, then we’ll get caught. And we saw that last year.”
Keegan was nominated for an All Star award last week. He has already won five of the prestigious awards, more than any other Mayo player, and admitted he was ‘absolutely thrilled’ to be shortlisted.
“I love representing my club for things like that, and it’s a great reflection on the coaching I got over the years and the guys in the Mayo set-up,” he said.
“I’m delighted, but I always say that it’s more my family that I do that for, so it’s nice to get the nomination to say thanks to them.”