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Mayo GAA legend Lee Keegan says ‘it was time to just walk away’ following retirement

The 33-year-old Westport man shocked the GAA community when he announced that he was leaving inter-county football to devote more time to his wife and two young children after 11 years


Allison BrayIndependent.ie

Mayo Gaelic football legend Lee Keegan says he would welcome a career as a GAA pundit after announcing his retirement from inter-county football earlier this month.

The 33-year-old Westport man shocked the GAA community when he announced that he was leaving inter-county football to devote more time to his wife and two young children after 11 years with the team where he was regarded as one of the county’s best ever players.

He was named the 2016 Player of the Year and won five All-Star medals as well as seven Connacht titles and a National League title. He also won six All-Ireland championship runners-up medals.

In a statement issued to the county board, 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 eleven 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.”

He reiterated those reasons for stepping down last night during an appearance on RTE’s The Late Late Show.

Asked by host Ryan Tubridy if he was taking a page from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern – who announced this week that she won’t be seeking re-election in order to devote more time to her family – he said his reasons for quitting while he was ahead were similar.

“I had 12 brilliant seasons (with Mayo),” he said. “I just felt it was a time in my life that I can just walk away and be happy with what I did.”

“I had a brilliant career, I’m really happy with my career but I’ve got kids at home now, I have a job, a house so I just want to give time back to that and see where that brings me,” he said.

“I’m not fully retired – I’m still playing with my club,” he added.

But he said he couldn’t devote himself fully to competing on an inter-county level.

“Every person that plays GAA will say the same thing – you have to be very selfish; if you’re not you’re not going to succeed at the top level. You’re committing to five, six days a week and if you really want to be ambitious and strive to get the All Ireland (championship) you have to commit to that,” he said.

He said he didn’t have the same level of responsibilities for most of his career that he has now.

“I didn’t have the full commitments and responsibilities that I have now in terms of kids, mortgage, job – so I just said, ‘ I don’t want to be relying on people all the time, people to pick up my slack that I should be doing at home and missing milestones with the kids. You start blinking and they’re getting older before you know it, ” he said of his daughters, aged three and 15 months.

“Sport then took a backward step in terms of importance,” he said.

But he hinted that sports fans may not be seeing the last of him just yet.

Asked if he would consider a career as a sports pundit, he said: “It’s definitely something I would love to look at.

"I’ve done bits with RTE before and I am a supporter of the game, I love going to games, always interested in how the games are trying to evolve, how players are trying to evolve and so, listen, if something comes up, I’d love to take it,” he said.

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