The show of respect between Lee Keegan and John Small is what Dublin-Mayo is all about 1 month ago

The show of respect between Lee Keegan and John Small is what Dublin-Mayo is all about

Lee Keegan and Dublin? It's a match-made in heaven, or hell, depending on what way you look at it.

The minds turns to the 2020 All-Ireland final when, having been laid out by a Mick Fitzsimons shoulder, Keegan was winded and he was breathless on the Croke Park turf. The play moved on, the ball moved away but as soon as Fitzsimons got shut of it, he made his way back to the corner forward position where his opponent was panned out on the ground.

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In a show of brilliant sportsmanship, the Cuala man beckoned the Mayo medics towards their stricken soldier but even more impressive, from one competitor to another, was the fist-bump Keegan got up to greet him with. Here were two of the hardiest boys in the land, tearing strips from each other one second, like old-fashioned rivals with axes to grind, and then acknowledging each other in mutual admiration the next.

It's not pretty, it might get rough occasionally but as long as Keegan's involved and as long as it's Mayo-Dublin, it's nothing personal, it's strictly the business of inter-county Gaelic football.

If you'd seen his encounter with John Small a year on, three minutes into the extra-time period of yet another gladatorial battle between the two teams, you'd have probably said to yourself then that there's something about Lee Keegan. The Westport warrior was the last man standing this time around but as soon as Small got back to his feet, the mutual respect was clear as day.

"It was a lovely moment just after Basquel's black card," said Colm Parkinson on Monday's GAA Hour Show.

"Do you remember John Small kept going and Lee Keegan came across and burst him with a shoulder onto the ground?  Then Keegan landed on top of him, there was a little bit of wrestling but then the two of them just stood up, looked at each other and started laughing."

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"The two of them didn't let on they were hurt, just started smiling at each other. Two hardy bits of stuff now, and then the minute they walked away from each other, they both went down holding their legs! But they didn't want to let on in front of the other that they were hurt.

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"I thought that was just a class moment between two really, really tough bits of stuff," added Parkinson.

"It's great to see that," said Ger Brennan.

"I've met Lee on a few occasions and he's just a wonderfully humble guy. Here are two lads who are known for being comfortable with the rough and tumble of the game over the years but it was great to see that healthy respect they had for one another."

Mayo won this battle but if there's one thing we've learned from years of watching these two great teams, it's that there will be many more to come.

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