Photo: Independent.ie (Sportsfile)
Lee Keegan is all over the media at the minute, arising from his involvement at Croke Park yesterday in the launch of the Kelloggs GAA Cúl Camps. The current Footballer of the Year features in pieces today in the Irish Examiner, Irish Independent, Irish News, Irish Mirror, The 42, GAA and he was also interviewed on NewsTalk’s Off The Ball show last night, which you can listen back to here.
Lee’s a refreshing voice to listen to at any time and it’s always worthwhile to hear his honest and open-minded opinions about the game. Topics that feature in the above pieces and in the Off The Ball interview include, of course, the county’s Sisyphean-like quest for All-Ireland honours, his controversial black card in last year’s final replay and the Dublin smear campaign waged in the lead-up to that game. He also talks about Westport’s All-Ireland winning run and much more besides.
Lee could, if he’d wanted to, have said more about that filthy, underhand, orchestrated drive last year to blacken his reputation. He could as well have laid the blame for the county’s failure to get over the line on factors outside the team’s control, as many of us on the sidelines (myself included) have done. It’s a measure of the man, though, that he avoided doing this and instead insisted that our inability to land Sam was down to us alone.
This quote, in particular, stopped me in my tracks:
If it was Maurice (Deegan) that called it, Maurice deemed it a correct decision and I can never argue against a referee.
People always reference Cormac Reilly in ’14. Did Cormac Reilly put the ball over the bar? We do. So Maurice Deegan didn’t stop us from winning an All-Ireland, we stopped ourselves. We had a chance to level the game in the last minute, and we didn’t take it unfortunately.
That’s the holy all of it, folks. I know we’ve more cause to rail against the unfairness of the world than many counties have but if that’s the opinion of the player whom most of us feel was grievously wronged last year then who are we to argue?
It’s easy to toss out all those old tropes – for some, examples of how we were done over stretch back across several decades – but, at the end of the day, this all amounts to an exercise in unhelpful self-pity, at times bordering on self-loathing. Stuff in the past clearly doesn’t bother Lee so it shouldn’t trouble those of us on the outside looking in either.
With another championship season now around the corner, it’s great to see that Lee’s belief remains unshaken. I love his Sergio Garcia metaphor and this quote about coming close but not close enough is a good one too:
People always say it’s a hard luck story, but it’s not really. If you are not there you are not going to win it.
That’s always been my viewpoint too. Having taken my seat in Croke Park on ten occasions (including the two replays) when Sam was up for grabs, I can honestly say I wouldn’t trade in one of them, despite the fact that we came away empty-handed every single time. Failure, ultimately, is not being able to compete at all at the highest level or being unable to come back after losing to try again.
Sitting in Croke Park last Sunday, the crowd dominated by all those listless and success-stuffed Dublin fans, I couldn’t help thinking back to the two totemic clashes last year when the raucous noise from our lot drowned the Dublin support out as our lads went toe-to-toe with them right to the bitter end. It’s memories like this – along with Lee’s upbeat words – that we need now, not thoughts about injustices and hard-luck stories, as we face into another summer campaign. This one may not provide us with our longed-for happy-ever-after ending either but one thing we’ve every right to be confident about is that the lads will once again give their all in the quest for ultimate glory.