Lee Keegan has admitted he provoked Diarmuid Connolly prior to the Dublin forward being sent off in last Sunday week’s drawn All-Ireland semi-final.
The Mayo defender accepted he instigated the incident that led to referee Joe McQuillan dismissing Connolly.
However, although Keegan escaped with a yellow card and Connolly had his red card rescinded by the Disputes Resolution Authority, Keegan insists he had been sent to ground shortly before the injury-time clash.
“Just a few minutes before I had been pushed over myself. So I was kind of a small bit provoked myself. But that’s not something you’d try to think about on the pitch too often because you need to hold your head as well.
“Unfortunately, I was sent off in last year’s semi-final for something I thought was nothing at the time. Again, I can’t blame the referee for his decision, he’s only making it in a split second. Diarmuid is obviously one of Dublin’s best players, I’m going to try to stop him any way I can to win the game for Mayo.
“We haven’t won an All-Ireland in a long time and we’ve been told before we’re a bit of a soft touch. So the reality is that if I’m marking one of their best players, I need to stop him.”
Keegan says all the top teams are acquainted with bending and breaking rules on the field of play to derive an advantage.
“I think we are a tough team and we do play on the edge. I think a lot of people know that. Our tackling is always on the edge. It’s definitely something we pride ourselves on.
“There’s no point being a soft touch and I don’t think Dublin were innocent themselves, if you look at the first game, they had a lot of incidents themselves.
“All the top teams have their black arts, that’s what you’re looking at I suppose. Even Kerry have it, they did last year with us, so you need to have a bit of a streetwise mentality about yourself.
“If you’re going to win the All-Ireland you have to have these actions. Unfortunately, they mightn’t be the best viewing at times but if you’re going to win a game you have to win it at all costs for your team.”
On the other hand, and perhaps paradoxically, Keegan believes players have to do more to assist referees.
“I just think we need to be helping out referees a lot more on this because at the end of the day, it’s their stats that are being let down, and their performances. It is a lonely place out there for them.”
Keegan, who last year benefitted from a technicality to play against Kerry in an All-Ireland semi-final replay, would like to see the disciplinary system streamlined and the number of committees reduced.
“There’s too many different places to go for a player to try to get off and there’s too much time to find a loophole or a technicality.”
However, the Westport man wants no sympathy after another Mayo defeat at the business end of the championship.
“I don’t see why people should be sorry for us. No-one feels sorry for Dublin or Kerry if they’re beaten, so there’s no-one feeling sorry for us. We just have to keep coming back.
“We’re a good enough team to win it and sympathy doesn’t really get you anywhere, does it? You’re either good enough to win it or you’re not.
“I know we are good enough but we haven’t proven it yet and that’s a tough thing for me to say because we have some of the best players in the country and they’ve demonstrated that over the last four or five years.”
Keegan came to the defence of goalkeeper Rob Hennelly who has faced sharp criticism for his kick-outs in the lead-up to Dublin’s two goals on Saturday.
“I haven’t been talking to him but I have to defend Rob. I think it’s unfair. We are probably the ones to blame because we are the ones out on the pitch. We are the ones not winning the breaking ball or not stopping the players coming through.”
Meanwhile, Philly McMahon denied he head-butted Aidan O’Shea in the drawn game between the counties.
The Dublin back also rejected the suggestion he feigned injury when clashing with O’Shea in another incident.
“You just have to look at the footage and you see that his arm hits me in the face. Whether it was accidental or not, I definitely didn’t feign injury. I suppose it was a bit disappointing because I didn’t do it,” he told 98FM.
Of the allegations of headbutting he replied: “It’s one of those things, I didn’t see it until a lot of people came to me and said: ‘Did you see it? you were blamed for headbutting somebody’, and I didn’t believe it.
“The camera view actually looked like I did do it but I didn’t. You look at the opposite side from the Cusack (Stand) and you see him (O’Shea) pulling the jersey towards me.
“I was glad nothing came of it.
“It was something that I didn’t let get to me because if I did I probably would have had a poor game in the second game.”
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