We’ve all been dreading this day but it’s finally arrived.
Earlier this morning, Lee Keegan announced his retirement from inter-county football. The official announcement from Mayo GAA is here.
In it, Lee himself makes clear the rationale for his decision. He’s got family commitments, with two small children, and so he feels unable to give the required time to inter-county football for another year. Anyone who has kids will immediately accept the validity of this position.
As many have said already, Lee owes us absolutely nothing, not least because, when we were lucky enough to have him in our playing ranks, he gave absolutely everything. I’m not alone today in expressing the opinion that Lee Keegan is the best Mayo player I’ve been privileged to see playing.
Lee’s colossal contribution to the cause is reflected in the honours he hoovered up since he made his debut for the county in early 2011. Footballer of the Year in 2016, an award he was also nominated for in 2013 and again in 2021, five All-Stars (a record for a player from Connacht) and nine All-Star nominations, a provincial record he shares with Padraic Joyce, as well as seven Connacht SFC medals, one Connacht U21 medal and a National League medal.
He played a total of 140 times for the county, making him the fifth longest-serving Mayo player of all time. He made 67 Championship appearances and his totemic contribution in the white-heat of battle is evidenced by the fact that, out of his scoring total of 8-71, an incredible 7-48 of that was bagged in the Championship.
The bigger the battle, the better Lee was.
It didn’t come much bigger than this:
It wasn’t, of course, just in the scoring stakes that Lee’s contribution proved so noteworthy, though remarkable it surely was, in light of the jersey numbers he wore most. As a defender, he was simply peerless, as he consigned big name after big name to seventy minutes spent in that strange netherworld Mayo fans called Keegan Island.
His man-to-man tussles with Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly are surely the ones that will be recalled in the decades to come. Two elite performers at the top of their game, going at each other hammer and tongs. How lucky all of us were – Mayo supporters, Dublin supporters, everyone who follows our games – who got to witness those gladiatorial jousts.
There was widespread hope in recent weeks that Lee would be able to commit for another year in the Green and Red, hopes that were buoyed when Christmas came and went without any retirement announcement. It wasn’t to be, however, and instead Lee departs the stage, leaving us with so many unforgettable memories from days we will always cherish.
Thanks for everything, Lee, and enjoy the retirement. We truly will never see your like again.
We’re recording a special bonus Mayo Football podcast episode for Patreon club members tonight, in which Colm Boyle, Billy Joe Padden and Edwin McGreal will be chatting with Rob about Lee’s Mayo career. Watch out for that later.