Kevin McLoughlin happy to fill gap for Mayo

County board undecided about appeal for Lee Keegan’s read card

Kevin McLoughlin of Mayo is tackled by Kerry’s Donnchadh Walsh during the All-Ireland football semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho.

Kevin McLoughlin of Mayo is tackled by Kerry’s Donnchadh Walsh during the All-Ireland football semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho.

Tue, Aug 26, 2014, 08:12

IAN O’RIORDAN

By noon yesterday it became perfectly clear the heads at Croke Park were not for changing, although by then the heads of the Mayo footballers were already in Limerick. There never was any option there.

Because while some people had strong concerns about where they were playing their All-Ireland semi-final replay against Kerry, the Mayo team were more concerned about how to play it.

As spectacularly energetic and spirited Sunday’s draw turned out to be, it wasn’t the completely planned performance, not helped by the fact Mayo had to play the entire second half with only 14 men.

Mulling over

Indeed that meant switching wing-forward Kevin McLoughlin to wing-back, to cover for the absence of the red-carded Lee Keegan.

With Mayo still mulling over the extent to which they will appeal Keegan’s automatic one-match ban , it could well be that McLoughlin will fill some similar role come Saturday evening, even though Mayo will be restored to 15 men.

What is certain is McLoughlin, inevitably, will be happy to fulfil whatever role he is given for the replay. Sunday’s repositioning meant curbing his naturally attacking instinct, at least to some degree, although McLoughlin had played wing-back before, and realised some readjustment was necessary at half-time, at which stage they already trailed Kerry by four points, as well as being down to 14 men.

“We knew we had to change something,” says McLoughlin, who was Mayo’s second highest scorer this summer going into Sunday’s game, with his 0-10 – he didn’t score at all against Kerry. “I was shocked when I saw Lee sent off, because I didn’t see it. I honestly didn’t know what had happened or what to expect.

“The main thing is that I went to wing-back, and we just sorted ourselves out. We had to play with 14 men, so we just had to manage it as best as we could, up in the forwards. I have played wing-back before, which helped a lot. I just had to do a job, and just had to work away. When you are given a job you just have to do it.”

McLoughlin also reckons every one of the Mayo players stuck to their job and, as often happens when a team is reduced to 14 men, felt obliged to increase their work rate to account for the loss. Part of that adjustment, he says, also meant deliberately holding on to ball possession for that bit longer.

“We knew we were a man down, that we had to work that bit harder, and just got back into the game. And yeah that meant holding onto the ball more. We just had to, because they had the extra man. For us, it was hard to see a man inside. So we had to hold onto it, really. It was not necessarily by choice.”

The Mayo County Board, meanwhile, were last night still considering their options on the issue of appealing the straight red card shown to Keegan in Sunday’s drawn game.

According to Mayo press officer Aiden McLoughlin, there is the three-day deadline, under rule, to submit any appeal, and a decision on the matter is likely to be made this morning.

It is understood, however, that whatever about the nature of Keegan’s offence – an attempted strike with the boot – the fact he would be still eligible for the All-Ireland final should Mayo progress might reduce the chances of his red card being struck out.

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