All eyes on Lee Keegan - Mayo's toil and trouble

It’s to him that most eyes will turn tomorrow evening. Wherever Lee Keegan is, there will be toil and there will be trouble.

All eyes on Lee Keegan - Mayo's toil and trouble

It’s to him that most eyes will turn tomorrow evening. Wherever Lee Keegan is, there will be toil and there will be trouble.

Trouble-shooting is what he has been tasked with since first being assigned to Diarmuid Connolly in the 2013 All-Ireland final.

In the time spent accompanying Connolly across five matches, he scored 1-4 to Connolly’s four points from play.

Connolly, at best, will be on the bench again tomorrow, meaning Keegan’s concerns will be diverted elsewhere, likely towards Brian Fenton or Brian Howard.

Whoever it is, the battle will be riveting based on the 29-year-old’s previous history against Dublin:

2017 All-Ireland final Dublin 1-17 Mayo 1-16:

Marked: Ciarán Kilkenny/Diarmuid Connolly.

Conceded (from play): 0-0.

Scored (from play): 1-0.

With Connolly among the replacements, Keegan was given the duty of tagging Kilkenny, who he marked out of the game — or was it that Kilkenny did enough to blunt Keegan’s natural attacking inclinations?

The former opinion was the most dominant as Keegan made that year’s All-Stars team with Kilkenny, who has otherwise been ever-present in the 15 since 2015, missing out.

Working off Cillian O’Connor, his second-half goal was ever so timely but his most notable intervention that afternoon came when his flung his GPS unit in the direction of Dean Rock as he kicked what proved the winning point. Keegan admitted:

Obviously it’s very unsportsmanlike and I totally accept that. But you’re looking into losing your fourth All-Ireland… and to be fair to Dean Rock, he never batted an eyelid. He went through his routine and it just sailed over the bar.

2016 All-Ireland final replay:

Dublin 1-15 Mayo 1-14.

Marked: Diarmuid Connolly.

Conceded: 0-1.

Scored: 1-0.

Paul Clarke wasn’t a Dublin selector at the time — he would be officially a year and a half later — but Mayo suspicions were raised when he made comments about Keegan prior to this game. “I hate that battle. I don’t see footballer versus footballer there. I actually think Lee is conceding his footballing ability by pulling and dragging rather than pitching himself against him as a footballer. With the two of them (he and Connnolly) it just seems to descend into a wrestling match all the time.”

Clarke was one of a few former Dublin players who criticised Keegan in the build-up but the would-be footballer of the year delivered his riposte with a beautifully-taken goal after being supplied by Aidan O’Shea in the 18th minute. A further 18 minutes later, though, and his afternoon ended abruptly when he was shown a black card for bringing down Connolly.

2016 All-Ireland final:

Dublin 2-9 Mayo 0-15.

Marked: Diarmuid Connolly.

Conceded: 0-1.

Scored: 0-0.

A day of football to forget for almost everyone as two freak goals kept Dublin in this. Remove those own goals and Mayo restrained Dublin to five points from play and Keegan was again leechlike on Connolly, ripping the forward’s jersey at one stage (both players were shown yellow cards) as he kept him to a point. “The two of us both just want to do whatever we can to win a game,” said Keegan afterward.

I wouldn’t think too much about it.

2015 All-Ireland semi-final replay:

Dublin 3-15 Mayo 1-14.

Marked: Diarmuid Connolly.

Conceded: 0-0.

Scored: 0-1.

Given he was up to the wee hours that morning (at a DRA hearing), Connolly had reason to be below par here.

Although Keegan himself was quiet by his standards, the detailing job he did on the St Vincent’s man was effective and he outscored his direct marker, 0-1 to 0-0. That margin would have been doubled but for his critical point attempt falling into the hands of Stephen Cluxton when Mayo were four points up in the third quarter.

2015 All-Ireland semi-final:

Dublin 2-12 Mayo 1-15.

Marked: Diarmuid Connolly.

Conceded: 0-1.

Scored: 0-1.

The running battle with Connolly, which culminated in the Dubliner being issued with a red card in additional time and Keegan shown a yellow, was difficult not to take your gaze away from. In his Disputes Resolution Authority meeting on the eve of the replay, Connolly claimed he had been forced to act in self-defence against Keegan, having been put in a chokehold. Incidentally, both players scored a point from play.

2013 All-Ireland final:

Dublin 2-12 Mayo 1-14.

Marked: Diarmuid Connolly.

Conceded: 0-1.

Scored: 0-2.

Mayo’s second-highest scorer from play with two points and this performance crowns his second All-Star award. However, and obviously not for the first time, he kicks a shot short at the crucial point of a game, in the 63rd minute when Mayo trail by two points. Picks up a yellow card but clearly targetted as Dublin cynically hold on for dear life in the dying stages with Kevin McManamon refusing to let go of him.

2012 All-Ireland semi-final:

Mayo 0-19 Dublin 0-16.

Marked: Bryan Cullen.

Conceded: 0-0.

Scored: 0-0.

Looked extremely sharp before picking up a dislocated finger and being replaced in the 15th minute. Keegan recovered from the setback in time to take his place against Donegal in the final. His debut All-Star season.

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