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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Keegan: Mayo aren't questioning themselves after Galway defeat

Mayo’s Leeroy Keegan at the launch of SuperValu’s #BehindTheBall campaign at Croke Park. Photo Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Mayo’s Leeroy Keegan at the launch of SuperValu’s #BehindTheBall campaign at Croke Park. Photo Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Firstly, it's Leeroy, not Lee. It's not his nickname or a Twitter moniker.

It's the reigning Footballer of the Year's name.

Lee, he says, is what people who don't know him call him.

Those who do; friends, family, team-mates, call him Leeroy. And he wouldn't mind if everyone else did too.

That #thingsleedid hashtag we all knocked so much craic out of after he became one of the lead characters in the biggest sideshow an All-Ireland final has known was technically incorrect.

Secondly, he's not grieving at the moment.

Mayo, Leeroy Keegan stresses, have seen the most of it and the least of it as a team and losing to Galway, while not a particularly pleasant sensation, isn't going to collapse their world either.

As yet, the tent is some way off being folded.

"The few days after, you do question yourself," he admits. And that process is ongoing.

"We are big-game players and an experienced group and of course you have to let it spin itself out for a few days but after that you just have to bend and look forward to another game.

"There was times," he points out, "when we lost quarters or semis and we had no second chance to amend for that."

Rubbish

Speaking of tents, the circus of attention in which Aidan O'Shea haplessly found himself last month was, Keegan stresses, "utter madness".

"How can something so small get out of hand like that?

"It was rubbish some of the stuff that came out. How can you attack an individual for some kid asking for a photo?

"You are not going to tell him to leave. It's just good manners and it's something Aidan has always done, been nice to kids and give them photos.

"I couldn't see it as being a problem I think we all took photos that night.

"How did we not all get rubbished?"

But back, momentarily, to the Galway defeat, Mayo's second in succession and as Keegan reveals, by far the most disappointing of the two.

You could easily build a case to say that Keith Higgins' first half red card left Mayo in too vulnerable a spot in such conditions in such a hostile environment but Keegan says he "wouldn't be holding him accountable for costing us the game".

"He probably has one of the best records as a defender in terms of discipline," Keegan points out.

"We could still control what was done on the pitch.

"Of course, to lose a leader like that was always going to cost us.

"I still think we handled it well enough in the first half to put ourselves in the game. Of course, Keith knows himself it was just a moment of probably madness.

Leaders

"It was very out of character but he is one of our leaders and a guy that I always looked up to when I was in the squad first.

"And he is someone who I still look up to, he is one of these guys you are always feeding off in training."

Last year, they wobbled post-Galway yet warmed into the qualifiers after a shaky opening round win against Fermanagh in Castlebar.

Now, Mayo will be pitched into a shark-infested qualifier pool, with the possibility of a trip to Clones or Ballybofey to begin their rehabilitation or end their season at the earliest possible juncture.

Either way, Keegan doesn't buy the miles-on-the-clock theory about Mayo.

"I think the age profile isn't too bad so I think we'll be fine," he says.

"We have a two-week break to reassess so I wouldn't be too worried about the miles on the clock because we showed at the weekend when we were four points down with 15 minutes to go that we had the energy in us to try and get back into the game.

"I think we have plenty in the legs, it's not something I worry about.

"We have more fitness in us than we did last year particularly when we played Galway last year we didn't show at all what we can do and last year when it came to the All Ireland final our legs were pretty good, so I wouldn't be worried in terms of that."

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