Lee Keegan can understand why people from Dublin, as All-Ireland champions, were disappointed he pipped Brian Fenton and Ciarán Kilkenny for the Footballer of the Year award.
The Mayo half-back received more votes from inter-county footballers than either of the other two short-listed candidates, prompting a frustrated reaction in the capital.
However, he maintains the award hasn’t been tarnished by that fall-out. “No, I didn’t make players pick me for Footballer of the Year. I didn’t pay them 50s to vote for me! That’s up to other people to criticise. I can’t do anything about it. I got recognised by my peers. The system is there. They picked me.
“I was obviously delighted to win it. It’s something I haven’t had a lot of time to think about because I was straight back in with the club scene. But no, I don’t see it as tarnished. People have their opinions all the time and they’re entitled to it.
“I can see why Dublin are probably a bit disappointed at not getting it. Obviously, the winning team usually get the Player of the Year. And I wouldn’t begrudge Brian or Ciarán getting it because they had fantastic years for Dublin. But no, I don’t think there is anything bad in it.”
Keegan, who lines out with Westport in Sunday’s Connacht IFC final, says neither the award nor his battles with Diarmuid Connolly will change his attitude towards the game. “I’m still probably the most horizontal lad you’ll meet in the camp!”
Although he does agree that being a back brings its stereotypes. “We’re always put in the firing line for it because we’re defenders. Forwards are recognised for what they’re doing ability-wise and setting up scores and whatever. We just look like the bullies and the thugs because we’re stopping them.
“Every supporter wants to see the forwards running around, kicking these beautiful scores and that but we have to do the ugly work and the uncompromising stuff where we have to stop these players because if we don’t there’s no hope for us at all either. You’ve seen the way the game has gone, the pace of it is insane. We just have to do what we have to do. Dublin do it so well. They have six backs that would do anything to win games – that’s the way I look at it. As defenders, you just have to do what other people are not willing to do. I’ve no beef with that at all,
“I’m very comfortable in saying that because I am a defender and when it comes to winning games I have to stop a forward and my other five defenders beside me have to do the exact same thing as I’m doing.
“I trust them to do the exact same thing I would.
“You seen Colm Boyle during the year, he took a black card once or twice that had to be done.
“That’s just the way it is. You win at all costs.”
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