Lee Keegan: Every game is ‘Championship’ now

All Star Lee Keegan has admitted it’s ‘Championship time’ now for Mayo as they seek the wins to preserve their long running Division 1 status.

Lee Keegan: Every game is ‘Championship’ now

The Connacht title holders beat Monaghan last weekend to record their first win of the league campaign but remain far from safe.

They play old rivals Kerry this weekend followed by ties against neighbours Roscommon and fellow strugglers Down.

Defender Keegan and talisman attacker Aidan O’Shea are available again after black cards in Monaghan though Keith Higgins (hamstring) and Cillian O’Connor (knee) will miss out on the Castlebar contest.

“It’s very important that we move on now and put in a big week in training ahead of playing Kerry,” said Keegan. “We are still in a dogfight and it is vital that we get another two points.

“We don’t really have a target in terms of points overall, just to try and win every game from now on. We are looking at it that it is Championship time now and every game is kind of a knock-out. We will take it as it comes on that basis.

“Beating Monaghan was a huge momentum builder for us because it’s all about building confidence and there is no better way of doing that than by getting wins up on the board.”

Mayo will aim to preserve another proud record when they play Kerry. In their last five meetings, the westerners have won four and drawn the other, including a semi-final win in 2012.

The strong spring form is in stark contrast to Mayo’s Championship record against Kerry having won just four times in 25 outings.

Mayo’s most recent loss to Kerry was in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-finals when a replay was required to separate them. Keegan agreed that it’s a special game whenever they meet now.

“Yeah, absolutely,” said the International Rules vice-captain. “We’ve had a few thrillers over the last few years, especially with those semi-finals in 2014. We actually have a very good record against them in the league so hopefully we can continue that. It’s definitely a game that we love to target each year and having them at home is going to be a huge help too. It’s another huge game and if we can get the two points there, you don’t know where it’s going to take us.”

Goalkeeper Rob Hennelly was Mayo’s unlikely hero in Monaghan with two late pointed frees to win it. Keegan said Mayo simply couldn’t afford to lose that game and slip to a fourth consecutive defeat.

“It was a big win for us, of course it was,” said Keegan. “Obviously you are coming under pressure from the first few games but we showed up against Monaghan and we really challenged hard for Stephen Rochford. Our supporters travelled up in good numbers and that was huge too. Not many teams come to Clones and walk away with a result so that was huge for us.”

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