Cafferkey: Critics do Keegan a 'disservice'
Injured Mayo star believes team-mate has been singled out for doing job well in Connolly duel
Injured Mayo defender Ger Cafferkey believes Lee Keegan is being done a "disservice" by some of the coverage of his running battle with Diarmuid Connolly and he insists people will be talking about their head-to-head battle for years to come.
Keegan and Connolly will likely go toe to toe again in Saturday night's All-Ireland final replay clash and the 2012 All-Star full-back sees some of the analysis of the showdown as "disingenuous for both parties".
The showdown has attracted much attention over the last few seasons as the pair have now met in four meetings since the 2013 final. Connolly was sent off for a clash with Keegan last year only to get the decision rescinded by the DRA. They were both booked in the drawn game while earlier this week former Dublin star Paul Clarke insisted that the Mayo man was "sacrificing his football ability" when marking the St Vincent's clubman.
"At the moment, it's kind of disappointing the take on (the duel) because I think it has been disingenuous for both parties," Cafferkey said. "Lee is the best footballer I have ever seen and played with. I see the type of athlete he is and I see how amazing his defending techniques and tackling techniques are.
"If I'm ever working with kids I say to kids, 'If you are going to Croke Park watch Lee, watch his feet, track his feet'. People focus too much on hands. And he is such an athlete he is able to get around Croke Park.
"So people are painting a very nasty and cynical picture of it but I would love to see it painted in a more positive light. It's two of the best footballers showing their range of skills against each other.
"I think (the duel is) fantastic. I think people are going to be looking back at this and say that was a great duel for a couple of years. You could almost get a 30 for 30 documentary out of it. It's real manly stuff - two of the best footballers in Ireland going toe to toe over a series of games. This is what footballing dreams are made of."
When it's put to Cafferkey that the running battle between the pair has taken on a destructive edge, he counters that there is bound to be coming-together in high-level sport.
And he feels that the depiction of Keegan as the instigator is unfair.
"Football is football, it is a physical game," he said. "There is meant to be physical contact. I'm not trying to paint it as sweetness and light. I'm trying to paint it as a great example of skills within the duel.
"That's how I feel - that it is a disservice. First of all, he (Keegan) is showing the skills of defending. He is so good at defending, people feel it is unfair. Does that make sense?"
Cafferkey played in the All-Ireland finals of 2012 and 2013 but is on the outside looking in this week as he continues to recover from a serious injury sustained in June. From that moment, he knew he'd have no chance of playing any further part in Mayo's season.
"I pulled my hamstring off the bone. I needed to get surgery and I'm back doing a bit of running and some gym work so I'm slowly climbing the mountain again."
"I've had a long time to get over it," he said. "And it's almost easier. I've been injured a lot and it's almost easier when someone says, 'You are done for the year' rather than, 'Oh that's six weeks and we might get you back for a semi-final'.
"And you are putting yourself through the wringer every day thinking about the injury."
Cafferkey doesn't sense the same amount of anticipation around the county this time around despite their promising performance in the drawn game.
"It's a funny one. There is still a lot of belief but there is still not the same hype as there was in previous years. Before the first game people were going on hope rather than belief but now they are going in belief.
"But its not the kind of frantic fervour that maybe we had once upon a time."
The Ballina Stephenites defender went to the drawn game and has backed manager Stephen Rochford to make the right calls to help Mayo over the line.
"He has made tough choices, there has been tough choices all across the year… he has made big calls when other people might be afraid to take the risk. I think he understands the risk and he has got it right every single game so far."
And he believes everything is there for Mayo to finish the job they started almost a fortnight ago.
"I'm trying to think of an ingredient that's not there ... I think the experience of the last day will stand them in good stead.
"And the experience of 2014 and 2015 will stand them in good stead. Having Stephen Rochford and Tony McEntee there, it is going to be different than the last two years. I can't think of an ingredient that's not there."