Enforced break may help Mayo’s old guard, says Keegan

Lee Keegan has insisted that Mayo won’t be secretly satisfied to dodge an Allianz League relegation bullet if the remainder of the competition is written off as many anticipate.
Enforced break may help Mayo’s old guard, says Keegan

Mayo’s Lee Keegan celebrates scoring a goal in front of Hill 16 (©INPHO/Tommy Dickson)
Mayo’s Lee Keegan celebrates scoring a goal in front of Hill 16 (©INPHO/Tommy Dickson)

Lee Keegan has insisted that Mayo won’t be secretly satisfied to dodge an Allianz League relegation bullet if the remainder of the competition is written off as many anticipate.

Title holders Mayo are the longest serving Division 1 team, operating in the top flight for 23 consecutive seasons, five more than Kerry and nine more than Dublin.

The westerners have won a number of relegation battles over the years, most recently in 2018 when they edged out Donegal, but looked in particular trouble with two games to play this term.

They’re second from bottom in Division 1 with just three points, two adrift of Monaghan and Donegal and have outstanding ties away to neighbours Galway, who lead the League, and at home to Tyrone.

Now with real fears of the rest of 2020 being wiped out because of the health emergency, there’s a strong chance the GAA will have to declare the 2019 campaign null and void.

“We were really looking forward to playing Galway,” insisted Keegan. “It kind of feels like a Championship game for us because we had to win. I think that would have been great preparation for us to lead into the Championship. We would have been facing a battle in our last game as well, where we had to win to potentially stay up. But no, definitely if the League had gone ahead we’d have been all for it. I can’t speak on behalf of the guys but of course we’d love to play games, that’s what we’re training for. As a proud county, of course it (staying in Division 1) is a great record. But it’s something I don’t think about too much.”

Newly married Keegan, 30, is among an ultra experienced core of Mayo players and the Westport man admitted the enforced lay-off could benefit in other ways too. Players like Colm Boyle, who picked up a serious knee injury in February and others carrying various knocks could return fresher and reinvigorated, potentially even extending their careers.

“We had a lot of guys that needed a bit of maintenance work, a lot of guys at the latter end of their careers and stuff like that. The break for some guys might just recharge their batteries and allow them to take stock of what’s going on.”

At the other end of the age spectrum, Keegan was impressed with the League form of rookie defender Oisín Mullin who started four of their five games though is on the radar of AFL scouts. Mullin, who impressed Aussie testers with his speed, agility and jumping stats, had been due to fly to Australia for further trials but that trip was shelved due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Ex-footballer of the year Keegan described him as ‘one of the best prospects coming through in a long time’.

“He reminds me of a young me when I was maybe 10 years younger,” said Keegan, who has lined out in five All-Ireland finals with Mayo. “The way he plays the game, it’s very physically demanding, he’s very fit, very good on the ball so he’s a guy that I really respected coming into the camp this year and really looked at hard.

“He embraced marking the likes of David Clifford, Conor McManus and these guys and I think he held himself very well during the League to be honest, so he’s a big find for us.”

  • Lee Keegan was speaking at the launch of Sports Physio Ireland’s new Online Athletic Development Programme for GAA players and teams.

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