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Belfast Live
Pat Nolan

Mayo legend Lee Keegan calls time on his inter-county career

Lee Keegan, one of Mayo’s all-time greats, has announced his retirement from inter-county football.

The news is a huge blow to the new management team led by Kevin McStay, with another key defender, Oisin Mullin, having already left for Australia to sign for AFL club Geelong.

Just last week McStay had said that he was “very hopeful” that Keegan would commit for another year.

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“That question is not answered yet but it is going to be answered pretty soon,” McStay commented.

"We've obviously met and cajoled him and coaxed him and got him into headlocks and kicked him and did whatever we could with him. But it's a big decision for him.”

Keegan’s future had been an ongoing source of speculation in recent months after he helped his club Westport to a historic county title, with the 33-year-old taking his time to mull over the decision.

Lee Keegan chats with Peter Harte, who is pictured with his daughte Ava, following Tyrone's win over Mayo in the 2021 All-Ireland SFC Final at Croke Park. (©INPHO/James Crombie)

Ultimately, he has opted not to play for what would be a 13th season and in a statement cited his young family as central to the decision.

He said: “I have enjoyed every minute of my time with Mayo. We had great days and some memorable victories. For me, it was always about wearing that Mayo jersey with pride every single day, and I was honoured to play alongside players who were of the same mind, and under managers who drove high standards on and off the pitch.

“But all good things must come to an end. The reality is that I have had to rely on a lot of people – most notably my wife Aoife – to give me the time and space to pursue my dream.

“Now that we have two young children, Lile and Rhea, I am keenly aware that I am no longer able to commit to inter-county football in the way I did over the past 11 years. I will continue to make myself available to Westport and look forward to building on last year’s historic success in the years ahead.

“I wish Mayo every success in 2023 and beyond. I will be cheering them on from the terraces. That’ll be an unusual experience for me, I’m sure, but such is the way of life.”

Keegan was arguably the most outstanding talent on the Mayo teams that consistently went close to landing the county’s first All-Ireland since 1951 over the past decade or so.

An outstanding wing-back who also did an excellent job for the team in the full-back line in more recent seasons, he was Footballer of the Year in 2016 as well as being nominated for the award in 2013 and ‘21.

Lee Keegan pictured after Mayo's All-Ireland SFC quarter-final defeat to Kerry in Croke Park last June. It proved to be Keegan's last appearance for his county. (©INPHO/Dan Sheridan)

He won five All Stars, four of them at wing-back and another at full-back, a record total for a player without an All-Ireland, and there was no noticeable dip in his form up to last year, when he received a ninth nomination.

In all, he made 140 appearances in League and Championship for Mayo, scoring 8-71. He won seven Connacht titles and an Allianz League, as well as losing six All-Ireland finals, one of them after a replay in 2016.

He also represented Ireland in the International Rules series four times.

There has been much fanfare around McStay’s appointment, backed by a high profile management team, but the loss of Mullin and now Keegan will temper expectations.

“Lee has represented Mayo with great distinction,” said McStay. “He was indestructible and defiant: on the biggest days, he walked tall and proud. Lee embodied the resilience of Mayo. The example he set will continue to inspire Mayo for many years to come.”

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