"He's the best half back I've ever seen" - calls for a return to the half back line for Lee Keegan
He's 31 years of age, he's ten years on the job but Lee Keegan is still going as strong, as fast and as powerful as he was in his mid twenties.
After yet another swashbuckling display against Dublin, Aaron Kernan has called the Westport man the best half back he's ever seen in his life. Now having joined the Armagh panel in 2004, Kernan has seen some good ones like Tomás Ó Sé, like Philip Jordan, like Jack McCaffrey but to him, unmatched and untouched, Lee Keegan is out on his own.
On Saturday night, the 2016 Footballer of the Year was back to his very best. He may have been started in the full-back-line but as Mayo chased the game, it was your match programme not your eyes that told you that. Because it was Keegan, all energy and abandon, who led the charge with his powerful and inspirational drives up the field and it was these glimpses that have Kernan, Colm Parkinson and Ger Brennan baying for a return to the line Lee Keegan made his name in.
"He has guts. He doesn't give in. The Mayo crowd love him. Yes, I know you can go forward from corner back but when he goes forward, he makes a difference. Now, I'd way rather seeing him do it from the number 5 position, doing it three or four times more often and from further up the field," began Parkinson.
"I was thinking with Harrison back now - he has a month to get right for the final - you could go Hession, Harrison and O'Hora and then stick Keegan out at number 5. Like he's so inspirational out there. I know he was good defensively, but Con never moved. He intercepted a couple of balls but at the same time, I don't think he's the best marking corner back in the world. But he's one of the best wing backs in the game."
Lee Keegan is something special.
Of all those Mayo warriors who have soldiered down through the years, that man is one of the finest. pic.twitter.com/adoTr8nNw3
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) August 14, 2021
"I don't understand it either," says Aaron Kernan, who loves the way Keegan plays.
"I only think I was playing half back in comparison to what Lee Keegan does. For me, he has been the best half back I have ever seen in the game. That may be a big call considering what has gone before him, the likes of Tomás Ó Sé and that - but he can do absolutely everything. Driving forward, he's an inspiration. His desire. His willingness and his ability to do whatever it takes to blot out his man, and then to still have the hunger to get up the field, to make things happen, to kick big scores even when he's on a man-marking job - that's just unbelievable.
"I don't understand what James Horan is doing because I think he's taking away so much of what his natural strengths are by putting him corner back/full back. Maybe if he's trying to keep him on board, with his reading of the game, yes he could play corner back/full back for another year or two but for me, I'd love to see him on the ball, out around the half back line, getting stuck into everything that's happening around the middle third.
"But regardless of where he's playing, he delivers every single time. I just love watching that man playing football."
Ger Brennan pointed out that past-injuries and subsequent doubts over his fitness may have forced Horan's hand but now that Keegan is back flying like a Boeing 747, it could well be the time to bring him back.
"I think everyone that has seen Lee Keegan play would like to see him in the half back line. Playing as a half back compared to full back - it's a different game that you're playing. Now the fitness thing was the only thing that I thought of - that maybe he was preserving him - and maybe he was struggling with his fitness for a while, but he's been playing in the full back line since. Maybe Horan's looking at the age-profiles, maybe he wants more legs around the middle third, I'm not so sure," said the Dublin man.
"Who are we to tell James Horan what to do after masterminding a defeat of the Dubs! But there is nothing wrong with Lee Keegan's fitness. He was still going strong, right until the end of extra-time," concluded Parkinson.