Monday 24 July 2017

'Everyone wants to see Diarmuid Connolly play in the summer' - Lee Keegan sides with long time rival over 12-week ban

Diarmuid Connolly of Dublin and Lee Keegan of Mayo clash during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Mayo at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile
Diarmuid Connolly of Dublin and Lee Keegan of Mayo clash during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Mayo at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile

Jack O'Toole

Last year's Footballer of the Year Lee Keegan has sided with long-time rival Diarmuid Connolly over the Dublin forward's 12-week ban for making 'minor physical interference' with linesman Ciaran Branagan during Dublin's Leinster SFC win over Carlow earlier this month.

Connolly was handed a 12-week ban by the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) last week for pushing Branagan and that decision was then reaffirmed by the Central Hearings Committee (CHC) on Wednesday.

30 August 2015; Cillian O'Connor, Mayo, attempts to separate Diarmuid Connolly, Dublin, and Lee Keegan, Mayo, during a scuffle which resulted in Connolly receiving a red card. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship, Semi-Final, Dublin v Mayo, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE
30 August 2015; Cillian O'Connor, Mayo, attempts to separate Diarmuid Connolly, Dublin, and Lee Keegan, Mayo, during a scuffle which resulted in Connolly receiving a red card. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship, Semi-Final, Dublin v Mayo, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

The St Vincent's clubman had the option to appeal that decision to the Central Appeals Committee (CAC) but he has reportedly now opted against that course of action, with Keegan, who was struck by Connolly during an All-Ireland semi-final with Mayo in 2015, lamenting the loss of the St Vincents forward for the majority of the championship.

“I think it’s just more unfortunate that it gets dragged out more than it should to be honest," Keegan told reporters at the SuperValu Get Behind The Ball  launch at Croke Park on Thursday.

"We should be talking about how the championship is shaping up this year with some of the big games we’ve had already and how teams have gone in the qualifiers.

“It’s unfortunate for Dublin themselves, I’m sure they’ll handle it in the best way possible, but everyone wants to see Diarmuid Connolly play in the summer.

“He’s one of the best players out there in terms of athleticism and showcasing his skills.

"Everyone wants to be writing about what Diarmuid Connolly does on the pitch, and what he’s capable of doing, so it’s just unfortunate that this is going to drag out for another while, but Dublin have the backroom and the know how on how to handle this better than anyone else.

“Hopefully it does get sorted because we want to talk about games like we had on Sunday, and results like that, so I think that’s the biggest thing; we should be focusing more on the football than these saga’s dragging out."

Connolly's suspension had the potential to drag out for another couple of weeks if he had of decided to appeal his case to the Central Appeals Committee (CAC), or even the Disputes Resolution Authority (DRA) if his case went further than that, but Keegan would like to see a more streamlined disciplinary process where matters are resolved by relevant authorities more swiftly.

“There’s too many loopholes," added Keegan.

"Obviously you’re going to try and find a way to get yourself out of it, and it’s unfortunate from that point of view that we’re all talking about disciplinary actions and not the football.

“Of course everyone wants it straightened out and done properly. You look at the likes of rugby, and it’s sorted out in a couple of days, and everyone knows where they stand, rather than four weeks later and we’re still talking about the same story.

“Everyone wants to talk about big championship games, not these saga’s that get dragged out until the end of August or September.

“It’s unfortunate that the media spotlight has been put on himself for a lot longer than he wants it to be, because as I said, he wants to focus on football and not disciplinary issues.”

Mayo, of course, have some disciplinary issues of their own with three-time All-Star Keith Higgins receiving a red card last weekend for kneeing Galway full-forward Damien Comer during the first-half of Galway's Connacht SFC win over Mayo.

Higgins' dismissal eight minutes before half-time meant that Mayo had to play the entire second-half with just 14 men.

Stephen Rochford's side would ultimately lose by just a single point, but Keegan refused to place any blame on Higgins with the 27-year-old pointing to his teammate's strong disciplinary record as a reason for his absolvement on Sunday.

“I actually had my back turned at the time, and then when I saw the red card coming, I thought it’s very unlike him.

“If you look at his disciplinary record he’s been one of our best performers in terms of not getting sent off and not getting yellow cards.

“It’s obviously disappointing for him but I don’t think it had a massive influence on the game in terms of we still had enough chances to get into it.

“Especially being one point down, playing with a gael force wind in the second-half, we should have really capitalised and pushed on a bit more.

“But like Keith Higgins has carried us over the line enough times in big games before, so obviously disappointed for himself, but I wouldn’t hold Keith accountable for what happened on Sunday at all.

“I think you have to look at yourself and say ‘did I do enough for us to get over the line against Galway?’

“We had enough chances but we just didn’t take them. Keith’s experienced and he’s around a long time so he knows himself.

“He’s obviously bitterly disappointed, but again, we have another opportunity now to redeem what we didn’t do well last Sunday."

Mayo will be drawn into the second round of qualifiers on Monday, or what Keegan likes to call the 'scenic' route to the All-Ireland championship.

SUPERVALU GETS BEHIND THE BALL THIS SUMMER WITH THE GAA -

Ireland’s Leading Retailer Will Donate 55,000 Footballs To GAA Clubs Across The Country.  As a long-standing sponsor of the GAA All Ireland Football Championships, SuperValu is getting #BehindTheBall this summer and is set to reinforce its unwavering support and commitment to local communities across Ireland by introducing a new campaign that will help inspire the future stars of the GAA and encourage more people to volunteer for their local GAA club.

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