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‘You couldn't beat him, he was an absolute freak’ – Fergal Boland pays tribute to retiring Mayo team-mate Lee Keegan

27 March 2022; Lee Keegan of Mayo during the Allianz Football League Division 1 match between Mayo and Kildare at Avant Money Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada in Carrick-on-Shannon, Leitrim. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Donnchadh BoyleIndependent.ie

One of Lee Keegan’s former team-mates has paid tribute to the retiring Mayo star, describing him as an ‘absolute freak’.

Fergal Boland, who is busy preparing for Tooreen’s All-Ireland club IHC final clash with Limerick’s Monaleen on Saturday evening, played alongside Keegan for the Mayo footballers since making his championship debut in 2017.

And in that time he saw two sides to the Westport man. One was the good friend. The other was the ‘ruthless’ footballer who Boland marked on occasion in training.

“He was unbelievable. First of all, an unbelievable person, just such a sound person. You could meet him and go for a coffee for an hour or two and he'd be an enjoyable person to sit down and talk to,” he said.

"Just a top class person in everything he did. Even before my hurling games, he'd be always texting me, 'All the best, best of luck', and everything.

“And then just in training, he was an absolute freak altogether in terms of his speed, power, his kicking, his skills.

"Literally, you couldn't beat him in any way, he was just an absolute freak.

"I got the privilege of sharing a dressing-room with him and I got to mark him a few times which was torturous enough but just a top player and a top person.

“Sometimes, with defenders, they might be physically stronger than you but you might have maybe a step or two on them, you might be quicker than them.

"But in terms of strength, he was way stronger than a lot of opponents and he was quicker. I think it's underrated how quick he was, I'd say he was one of the quickest in the team. His turn of foot was outrageous.

“I remember marking him in an A v B game before the 2017 All-Ireland final. At the time I was just in the panel and trying to get into the 26 for the final the following weekend.

"I was on the B team and he was obviously playing on the As. I had to maybe mimic a Dublin player that was playing the following weekend, to put it up to him, and I remember he kicked 1-4 on me in that A v B game.

"I was, like, 'Jeez, there's no hope of me getting into the panel now for next weekend'. He was that sort of player.

"He was so ruthless on the pitch but also in training, he wouldn't take a backwards step. That obviously made him the player he is.”

Boland isn’t part of Kevin McStay’s plans for 2023 but he admitted that he expected Keegan to go on for another year given his form last season.

“I probably would have (expected him back). If you look at last season, he was our best player,” he said.

"He was the one player that got nominated for an All-Star so he probably was our player of the Championship.

"Obviously he has kids now and he has just moved into his new house or whatever, obviously has massive commitments there. In terms of his football ability, still flying.

"I know he had a really good season with Westport as well. So yeah, he was still at the peak of his powers I felt anyway.”

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