Stephen Rochford doesn’t expect Lee Keegan to make Galway date

Mayo manager Stephen Rochford doesn’t see Lee Keegan being involved in their Connacht quarter-final against Galway on May 13, but stopped short of conclusively ruling him out.

The 2016 footballer of the year dislocated his shoulder during Mayo’s league defeat to Tyrone on March 18, undergoing surgery the following week to address the injury.

Keegan, now six weeks post-op, is back running, but has not been involved in any contact drills at training.

“I don’t see him partaking in the game,” Rochford said yesterday.

“Locally, they’re all thinking how did Robbie Henshaw get back (the rugby player lined out in Leinster’s Champions Cup semi-final 10 weeks after sustaining a similar shoulder injury). In a professional environment, more can be done. I don’t know what it is but Lee required surgery. We’re planning very much without him.

“Cillian O’Connor has progressed well, isn’t back into full training yet. We’re confident he will be involved. Brendan Harrison is in full training. He has had some game-time with club. Chris Barrett, Donal Vaughan are back.”

The Mayo County Board opted to play one round of club championship during April, with Rochford describing the past month as challenging.

“It’s not a level playing field. We’re playing in 12 days time, some teams aren’t playing until the first week in June. So, trying to guard off the month of April [for clubs] is more feasible in counties that aren’t playing until June.

“Last weekend was the first weekend our guys have not played games since the first weekend of the FBD. Some guys haven’t played because of injury, but between club, college and inter-county, they have been going and going. Somebody has been demanding something.

“In April, we played a round of club championship and our lads also played in three rounds of the league. So for a team that’s out the earliest in the championship, bar the four Connacht counties this weekend, we’ve operated in really good faith.”

Despite Galway bettering Mayo in the Connacht championship in 2016 and 2017, as well as their run to this year’s league final, during which they overcame Rochford’s charges in a feisty encounter, Tribes boss Kevin Walsh says his side are most definitely the underdogs.

“Dublin are the benchmark. Coming right behind them is Mayo and that is who we have to go up against on their own pitch which is not going to be easy,” Walsh asserted. “It’s a huge game. We all know the length of the backdoor which is really, really long.”

Galway had three players sent off when the counties clashed in the FBD league in January and there was another three red cards flashed during their league meeting in February — two for Mayo (the O’Connor brothers) and one for Galway (Paul Conroy). The bite evident during those two games stems from a competitive edge being restored to this rivalry after Mayo’s five-in-a-row in Connacht.

“If you go back three or four years ago, maybe the expectation wasn’t there at all for Galway to perform or even compete. That’s something that has probably changed in the last two or three years, which is good for us.

“Go back to when the teams were very close together, one or two-point games, which I was in as a player myself. Those games were quite physical. They were always going to be physical because you had a man to mark and hopefully, you were going to walk off there and say you got the better of him.

“When the teams are coming a bit closer to each other in relation to expectation, you are always going to have a high intensity game.”

Whatever about being meaner in the tackle, Galway have certainly been meaner in the number of green flags they’ve conceded in 2018. The Tribesmen conceded one goal across their eight league games, keeping clean sheets away to Kerry and Dublin.

“Go back 36 months, our first FBD final after I came in. I remember it well. We conceded four goals and it could have been four more.

“It is something we would have certainly gone after from day one. It wasn’t to stop goals, but to get defensively strong. It’s improving all the way, albeit did take some gutsy saves at times to keep out goals [this spring]. It has been down to four years of hard work.

“At the end of the year, I’ll always take stock. You have to look at what’s improving, what’s not improving. It’s important we managers isolate ourselves and not get sucked into perceptions that are out there, maybe by some lazy work by some pundits.”

Corofin’s Ian Burke, Kieran Molloy, and goalkeeper Bernard Power have rejoined the panel after their successful club campaign.


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