#TheToughest Choice: Who would you rather have in your team on Saturday, Lee Keegan or Diarmuid Connolly? 5 years ago

#TheToughest Choice: Who would you rather have in your team on Saturday, Lee Keegan or Diarmuid Connolly?


It's a battle for the ages.


It's a duel we'll talk about in years to come. It's the GAA's version of Keane and Vieira.

We should be proud of this clash. One of the best forwards of his generation coming up against one of the finest backs. They trade blows, literally and metaphorically, and they leave it all on the pitch every single time they do battle.

But who would you have for the All-Ireland final replay?

#TheToughest Choice: Who would you rather have in your team on Saturday?


Conor Heneghan says: Lee Keegan

The likes of Aidan O’Shea and Cillian O’Connor probably have a higher profile in the current Mayo squad but we doubt Stephen Rochford looks beyond the number 5 when putting the first name on the team sheet.

Lee Keegan is regularly cited as the best wing back in the modern game and with good reason.


Such has been his consistent excellence since nailing down a spot in the Mayo team in 2012, however, that there’s an argument to be made that he’s been, pound for pound, the best footballer in the country in the last five years.

At the very least, he’s certainly in the conversation alongside the man he’ll once again go to toe to toe with on Saturday and a few other worthy contenders.

Three All-Stars in four seasons, a Footballer of the Year nomination in 2013 and the International Rules vice-captaincy is a testament to that.


It’s probably because of the aforementioned consistent excellence that some suggested Keegan had suffered a slump in form earlier this season.


Traditionally a swashbuckling attacking wing-back, Keegan certainly wasn’t going forward as much as he did under James Horan, but it soon became clear that the Westport man had assumed a new role and was doing a damn good job of it too.

Unlike traditional man markers who don’t really care if they see, let alone touch the ball, Keegan has kept tabs on some of the best forwards in the country this season without letting it overshadow his own contribution.

He’s conceded just two points from play to his direct marker in seven games this season.


The first was a ridiculous effort from Shane Walsh in the defeat to Galway in Castlebar and the second to Diarmuid Connolly, who benefitted from a poor David Clarke kickout in the dying minutes of the drawn All-Ireland Final.

Going forward, he’s managed six of his own from open play, including two really clutch points against Tyrone after his man, Sean Cavanagh, was given the line having been kept scoreless.

Tipperary danger man Michael Quinlivan suffered the same fate, from play at least, in the semi-final.

Defenders, even in the all-purpose modern game, often still have specialised roles to play.

Some are man-markers. Some are ball-carriers. Others, like Cian O’Sullivan, are effective sweepers. Elsewhere, Ryan McHugh and Peter Harte might wear 5 and 7 on their backs but they are most effective in the other half of the pitch.


Keegan can do it all. Give him a job to do and you can be guaranteed that he’ll carry it out to the letter. Two-footed, with a massive engine and strong as an ox, he’s the prototype for the modern player.

Sure, he plays on the edge, but all the great players do and besides, his disciplinary record speaks for itself.

Former Dublin players might have been keen to point the finger this week, but despite all of Mayo’s games being played in front of multiple cameras, the only evidence of wrongdoing to date this season is a jersey-pulling contest with Connolly that all started because of a harmless push to the chest.

Both he and Sean Cavanagh got yellow cards after a wrestling match immediately after half-time in the quarter-final and, without any footage to back it up, it was merely assumed that Keegan was the guilty party because Cavanagh would have had no interest in getting involved.

He won’t let the excess scrutiny get to him either because he’s mentally tough too, a trait that’s strong in a Mayo team that have consistently responded to crushing setbacks.

The only thing Lee Keegan is missing is an All-Ireland winner’s medal; fingers crossed he’ll put that right this weekend.

Conán Doherty says: Diarmuid Connolly

As good a job as Lee Keegan does on Diarmuid Connolly, the Dubliner does it right back.

It's a task in itself minding Mayo's biggest threat from deep and it's hardly as if the St. Vincent's man has been cleaned out against the westerners. No, Connolly isn't getting credit when he deserves it.


He spent most of his time the last day out as a dropping half forward. He did his best work on his own 45'. He turned over ball, he burst out of defence, he put in a serious shift for his county and he was still the sole Red Sea-splitting reason that the Dubs got their second goal with what must've been the pass of the championship into Dean Rock.

Jim Gavin knows that the champions need to be more direct on Saturday. He knows that they absolutely need more out of their inside line and he also knows that Diarmuid Connolly is their best bet of doing that.

You saw it in flashes during the drawn game, pinging scintillating, delicious passes to the full forwards and, if Dublin's front three are operating like they should be, Connolly will have more moving targets to fire his torpedo-like balls into.

The capital man has more in the locker that he can give Dublin for the replay and he's already giving them plenty. The winning and the losing of the game is in his hands and his unmatched feet.

If you were lining them all up against the wall, he'd be your first pick out of either team. Lee Keegan is just the necessary second pick to firefight the inferno.

Who will win, Dublin or Mayo? Paul Galvin joins Colm Parkinson on The GAA Hour. Subscribe here on iTunes.