Former Mayo manager John Maughan is relishing the prospect of Lee Keegan and Diarmuid Connolly renewing acquaintances in the All-Ireland football final, writes Peter McNamara.
Keegan and Connolly clashed in the All-Ireland semi-final drawn encounter last year resulting in the St Vincent’s man being dismissed by referee Joe McQuillan.
Keegan later admitted to provoking Connolly. However, it is highly probable the Mayo defender will be tasked with negating the attacker once more in the September showdown.
Maughan, speaking on the Irish Examiner GAA Podcast yesterday, certainly hopes the duo get to square up again at headquarters.
“Mayo people have the greatest of respect for Diarmuid Connolly,” Maughan explained. “He’s arguably one of the finest footballers we have witnessed in the last decade.
“He’s an awesome talent that I love to see play football. I have to say though, Peter Crowley did a fantastic job on him Sunday, that duel ended 50/50.
“Diarmuid had an influence on the game but I thought Crowley did a great job, as Paul Murphy did on Ciarán Kilkenny.
“I expect Keegan and Connolly will indeed renew acquaintances in the final. And I hope that they do because that’s exactly the kind of stuff you want to see in an All-Ireland final.
“They’re two really outstanding footballers.
“Lee Keegan, pound for pound, is as good a defender as we’ve ever produced here in Mayo. He’s a terrific athlete.
“I’m looking forward to that duel and many others might I add.”
Maughan believes the match-ups will be a vital feature of the decider.
“The match-ups in the All-Ireland final will be absolutely crucial. That will certainly be a feature of the final.
“I don’t know where we’re going to hurt this Dublin defence. If we get our match-ups right though; I can see Paddy Durcan picking up Kilkenny and Keith Higgins doing a job on Bernard Brogan as well.
“But even if you get all of those match-ups right for 45 to 50 minutes they then introduce the likes of Eoghan O’Gara, Paul Mannion and Cormac Costello who bring another dimension.
“That could be a telling factor and would concern me,” he said.
However, the age profile of the current squad is a positive for Mayo, according to Maughan.
Kerry’s average age is higher than Mayo’s and yet Éamonn Fitzmaurice’s side were within touching distance of dethroning the All-Ireland champions.
“One thing that gives me further hope is if you look at the age profile of the Kerry team.
“I was looking at Aidan O’Mahony, ‘Gooch’, ‘Star’, Darran O’Sullivan and Marc Ó Sé, all guys 30-plus. And to think that the game was still in the balance, which is a credit to Kerry, gives me hope because our age profile is a little bit lower.
“We are similar to Dublin in that regard and I just feel the energy levels that we can bring to the fray might be a telling factor as well.
“One gets the impression there is one big game in Mayo.
“I just happened to bump into Aidan O’Shea when I was coming home on Sunday night in a shop in Castlebar.
“And I can tell you as Mayo footballers these fellas will really throw the kitchen sink at Dublin.
“We have a chance,” he added.