GAA will miss Connolly, if not Mayo - Keegan
Lee Keegan is fit and raring to resume his Mayo championship career in Limerick tomorrow week, but Diarmuid Connolly is still nowhere to be seen in a blue jersey - and that's a huge loss to the GAA, his old sparring partner reckons.
"I didn't get to see him last year either, so I'll have to stick with Ciarán Kilkenny," Keegan quips, citing his altered man-marking brief in last year's All-Ireland SFC final.
"We've built up quite a rivalry over the last couple of years, good and bad," he adds. "I think he's going to be hugely missed over the championship. When he came on last year against us you saw the huge influence he had.
"You can't buy that. It's a natural thing he has. As much as we don't want to play him - he's crucified a lot of us - he's going to be missed.
"It's tough that everyone's talking about him and it would be nice if he got a bit of peace away from the game and was let live his life normally. He definitely will be missed from a GAA point of view, he's one of the fan favourites - not a Mayo favourite because he destroyed us in the second half last year. But for Mayo-Dublin that's a long way down the road, unfortunately. We've a lot of slippery roads (to travel)."
Even more than usual this summer because, after their third consecutive Connacht loss to Galway, Mayo now face four qualifier rounds to even reach the Super 8s.
Keegan was "very close" to making it back against Galway, following surgery to repair the labrum tear suffered when he dislocated his shoulder against Tyrone in March.
It wasn't just his shoulder that took the brunt of Padraig McNulty's red card challenge, as Keegan also suffered his third ever concussion.
"We did a test a couple of weeks after and everything showed up positively," he says. "It was a concern initially; I did suffer quite badly that night with headaches.
"To be fair to Seán Moffatt (team doctor), he put all the correct protocols in place. That was another part of the reason not to be rushing back, not just the shoulder but if I got another belt in the head then you're looking at serious trouble down the line.
"The way I play the game and the way the position is, you're constantly in contact. But if you go out thinking of that you're going to pull out of challenges. If it happens again we'll have to really sit down and maybe assess where I'm going after that. I'm not getting any younger."