'For Footballer of the Year, it's not about stopping another player': Ex-Dubs star hits out at the choice of Lee Keegan
Lee Keegan bucked the traditional trend at the All Stars banquet last night, joining a select group of players who have scooped the Footballer of the Year award despite not winning the All-Ireland - but one ex-Dublin star thinks the voters made a mistake.
The Mayo defender joins Peter Canavan, Steven McDonnell and Bernard Brogan in the group who have won the sport's top individual prize on a losing team, but former Dublin forward and All Star winner Vinnie Murphy thinks that Keegan's defensive style shouldn't have been rewarded with the Footballer of the Year honour.
Murphy expressed his surprise that Keegan - who was chosen by Colm Keys as the best player in Ireland in a list of the top 50 footballers in the Irish Independent - got the nod from the players, citing the example of Philly McMahon in 2015 as a case where a player's physical play seemed to count against him in the voting.
"Last year, Jack McCaffrey got it and Philly McMahon didn't get it and that was supposed to be due to his robust nature and that counted against him and I just wonder why that didn't happen for Lee Keegan," Murphy told Independent.ie.
"Looking back on the year I just thought there were five or six players who were better than Lee Keegan outside of any disciplinary things. He is on the All Star team and I don't doubt that he warranted that but I think as Player of the Year I thought Mayo corner back Brendan Harrison had a more stellar year.
"The first final Keegan was okay, he did a job on Connolly. The second game, he was gone after about 25 minutes."
Aside from Harrison, Paul Geaney (Kerry), Michael Quinlivan (Tipperary), Ryan McHugh (Donegal), Jonny Cooper and Brian Fenton (both Dublin) are offered by Murphy as possibly more worthy winners than Keegan.
"From consistency purposes I thought they would have been ahead," Murphy said.
"I was surprised that Ciaran Kilkenny was shortlisted. He had a good year but I thought he was better last year. I thought when I saw the three nominees I thought Brian Fenton was a definite."
Murphy admits that as an ex-Dublin player, many will dismiss his criticism of Keegan as sour grapes, but he feels strongly that the Footballer of the Year award should have gone elsewhere, citing the Mayo star's battles with Diarmuid Connolly as a reason why.
"That has been going on for a few years," he said of the box office Keegan vs Connolly clashes.
"Diarmuid's past record comes against him but it was the same with Sean Cavanagh [Cavanagh saw red vs Mayo in the All-Ireland quarter-final]. People talk about the job he does but the job he does is on the darker side of the game. It is part of the game and it goes with the territory and he is without doubt probably the best defender in the country.
"For Footballer of the Year - the word 'footballer'. It's not going out to stop another player. It is how you dictate [things].
"He is probably the best defender of the last couple of years and he is fantastic to watch going forward and he doesn't concede an awful lot but his defensive side of the game is not the blocking or the harrying, it is pulling and blocking the run at route source.
"You can look at it with a Dubs eye and I accept that criticism but when you watch the way he plays Connolly, it is not within the rules. It doesn't even resemble what the game looks like. Everybody will pull a jersey here or there but when the play is 50 yards away and you are pulling a jersey to stop him making a run.
"It's not that Lee Keegan isn't a worthy winner, it is more that I think he has had way better years prior to this."