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Stephen Rochford feels there was an 'agenda' out against Lee Keegan

The Mayo boss was critical of former Dublin players who put the focus on Keegan in the build-up to Saturday’s replay.

STEPHEN ROCHFORD BELIEVES there was a concerted media campaign against Lee Keegan by ex-Dubs in the build-up to last Saturday’s replay.

Lee Keegan Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Keegan was black-carded for a foul on Diarmuid Connolly after 34 minutes, and Mayo lost their most influential player for the rest of the game.

Rochford stopped short of criticising Maurice Deegan for what he called a “harsh” dismissal and added that he didn’t feel the referee was influenced by the media commentary. But the Mayo boss did make his feelings known about the message being put out there by former Dublin players.

“Lee Keegan is one of the most mentally tough, honest-to-God football guys I have ever met,” he said. “I don’t think it knocked a breeze out of him but I am under no illusions that there was an agenda out there, which I think is unfortunate.

“It is unfortunate that former players would feel it necessary to get into that. Guys that haven’t always been whiter than white but, look, that’s for them to deal with their own consciences.”

In newspaper interviews, Ger Brennan and Paul Clarke expressed their gripes about Keegan’s manhandling of Connolly during the drawn game. Meanwhile Alan Brogan remarked that “Lee is getting away with more than he should be” in his column.

It was put to Rochford whether he felt it was an orchestrated campaign. “I don’t know, it is certainly coincidental, four or five days in a row but so be it,” was his response.

Rochford did point to Keegan’s dismissal as proof that the GAA needs to introduce a video referee to help the official on the field with debatable decisions.

“By my knowledge there is maybe up to 10 or 12 people on interaction ear pieces and microphones. Out of those twelve there is definitely scope for somebody to be looking at a video clip saying ‘Maurice, it’s not as clearcut as we thought here. Or it is’.

“Or maybe like in the rugby where they say ‘my position on the field is this: can you assist?’ Thirty seconds probably gives you a fair indication. And you look at how long it has probably taken for a card, it is taking them probably a minute to show it.

“So while he is gathering his thoughts or communicating, saying ‘look, I have a position here. Can we confirm it or not?” Is it blatant or is it not?’

“Everybody in the stadium saw a definite hand trip in the first quarter of the game. That’s deliberate. Again, the referee may not see it because of an angle they are at or some fella lying on the ground but it’s unfortunate.

“Look, Dublin lost James McCarthy in the first game and we lose two guys in this game. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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