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Keegan stays positive and believes in Mayo

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CONFIDENCE: Lee Keegan thinks the current Mayo team can win an All-Ireland title. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

CONFIDENCE: Lee Keegan thinks the current Mayo team can win an All-Ireland title. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

CONFIDENCE: Lee Keegan thinks the current Mayo team can win an All-Ireland title. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

In the most challenging of times as a Mayo footballer over the last decade, Lee Keegan has, by his nature, always managed to be that bit more sanguine.

Common perception is that an inter-county season on ice until later in the year or even 2021 will weigh heavier on a dressing-room where, for many of the occupants, time is running out.

Keegan, though, sees opportunity for repair and healing with injuries that have been mounting up. He himself has undergone two hip operations, a shoulder repair and, most recently, an ankle clean-out in the last two-and-a-half years. The surgical audit on some of his colleagues is just as extensive.

"It has given lads time to reassess their bodies, their lives and see where they are at in terms of their career," he said. "It has given them time to recharge in the hope that there will be football this year but again, a lot of lads will be hungry to go again next year. We have a lot of guys touching 30 to 34 - on the edge nearly. But there had been no talk of retirements."

Acknowledging that winning an All-Ireland for them is getting increasingly "harder," that absence of mass retirements was a statement in itself, he feels, that belief is still strong.

"The reality is that if guys didn't come back that's a sign that they didn't think we are going to win it.

"I genuinely think there is an ambition that we can go on and win an All-Ireland, though it's very difficult, it's getting harder," he said, recalling recent battles with Dublin, Donegal and Kerry in particular. "But we believe an All-Ireland is there. It's very possible for us."

When, however, is another thing. Keegan is at ease with the probability that it will be 2021 before they get going in earnest again and if that's the way it is, it's perfectly acceptable to him.

"It's potentially a year with no football and I think players will take that on board. I can start planning for my year and start filling it up with different bits and pieces, be it work life or home life - do something different, whatever it is," he said, suggesting some form of endurance sport could appeal to him if such a call is made.

"If someone came out and said 'guys, realistically we are going to have no championship this year' - I think we can take that on the chin.

"Where it gets harder is another few weeks of uncertainty and guys get a bit anxious and want to know something. It's no one's fault, unprecedented times we're in and hard for anyone to come out with a definitive answer.

"But the reality is football is probably a no-go and guys can really get on with their life and start prepping for next year."

As to games behind closed doors, Keegan admits it would be difficult without the faithful Mayo support.

"It's an option, every player would take it, but I just love having the green and red around a stadium on a summer's day, getting that buzz. It gives that bit of confidence they're behind you. I know what football means in this part of the world. If it means as much as that, then they deserve to be at games to watch us play."

 

Lee Keegan was speaking at the Launch of Sports Physio Ireland's new Online Athletic Development Programme for GAA players. The programme is an educational platform to teach players how to improve their speed, strength and conditioning and injury management techniques.