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Lee Keegan Discusses The Connacht Rugby Career That Never Was

Lee Keegan Discusses The Connacht Rugby Career That Never Was
By Donny Mahoney Updated
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There's a fascinating moment at the end of Lee Keegan's interview on the Mayo GAA pod released in the aftermath of his retirement last week.

Keegan - who excelled at rugby as a teenager with Westport Rugby Club  - was asked by Mike Finnerty what advice he'd give to his younger self.

"Stick with rugby," Keegan says jokingly, before dispensing actual life advice to his younger self.

Keegan became one of the greatest Mayo footballers of all time, but it's a great what-if. What if Keegan - who played fullback - had stuck with the oval ball?

The pathway to a career as a professional sportsman was there, since Keegan was in the Connacht academy and offered  a semi-pro contract with Corinthians.

But where would rugby have taken him?

'I didn't really have the baggage of gaelic growing up'

Speaking on the Late Late Show tonight, Keegan discussed his love for rugby and how he was eventually seduced by gaelic football.

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"When I started playing football in Westport at under-13s, probably, I just never got the grá for it.

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"Then, rugby became kind of a stronghold in our house and with the group of lads I was hanging around at the time, so I took that up from a young age.

"As the years went on, I lost more interest in gaelic and started pursuing the rugby more and more.

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"At under-17 level then, I got called up to the Connacht academy and then I saw the professional side of things from a young age.

"What the set-up was like, integrated into training day in, day out, how they live, how they breathe, so took that really seriously up until under-19, under-20.

"I thought the choice was funny because I wasn't playing a lot of football at that time - didn't make the minor team with Mayo - so I didn't really have the baggage of gaelic growing up as much.

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"Very rugby orientated and had good parents that never really put pressure on me to perform at different levels.

"I got to under-21 [with Mayo], then, and got the big question then; will I either commit to playing in front of thousands, which I didn't really see at the time, or playing maybe semi-pro or professional rugby contract?

"For some reason, I just went with the gaelic and the rest is history."

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It's an underage career with a lot of similarities to that of Robbie Henshaw. Henshaw excelled at both sports but famously chose rugby. Keegan's journey took him towards gaelic football and he attained iconic status as a Mayo player. Amazing to think they could have been teammates in a Connacht XV, or marking each other in a Mayo v Westmeath challenge match.

Keegan also spoke with true class about how fatherhood altered his perspective as a footballer.

SEE ALSO: Lee Keegan Reveals His Ridiculous GPS Stats And How He Was Once Obsessed With Them

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