Lee Keegan hoping MacHale Park can become fortress for Mayo
‘I think our away record is brilliant, our home record not so good’
Mayo’s Lee Keegan: “If we’d beaten Dublin once we could have beaten them two or three times, and have two or three All-Irelands.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
A little over three months out from a Connacht football championship showdown with Galway, Lee Keegan had hoped Castlebar might look a little more like Mayo’s fortress.
Yet MacHale Park continues to deliver little in the way of home comforts, and Kerry were the latest visitors to leave with a rich bounty last weekend; two National League points.
The Kingdom showed scant regard for the hosts by thundering through them in a three-point win, finishing the game with just 13 players. Ronan Shanahan and Gavin Crowley were dismissed, and former Mayo manager James Horan reflected in his newspaper column how Stephen Rochford’s players were “pushed around by a bunch of young lads”.
Mayo forward Evan Regan came off worst of all as, clearly dazed, he had to leave the field after a collision with Shanahan in the second half.
Lee Keegan, who sat out the game following hip surgery, said on Monday that Regan suffered a broken jaw in the incident.
The Mayo county board confirmed the injury in a statement. “Evan sustained a facial bone fracture and concussion injury. He is receiving appropriate treatment and follow-up with specialists opinion early this week, ” the statement said.
“Evan Regan got a bad injury at the weekend, so that could curtail his league campaign,” said Keegan, speaking at the offices of Sports Physio Ireland, a sports injury practice on Dublin’s Fitzwilliam Street Upper.
“I thought he was doing okay in the game. I thought he had a good game against Monaghan also. But he got a bad tackle at the weekend . . . and he got a bad outcome; a broken jaw. He’s going to have to try to look after that for a couple of months anyway.
“I was literally in line with it. It was bad, now, I have to say. I was chatting to him yesterday and he was in a bad way still. I know he got a bit of bad news, he has to get surgery now, I think.
“That’s the outcome of it which is unfortunate because it was a prime opportunity for him to put his name in there and try to get a starting spot for the Championship.”
Mayo play Galway in the Connacht championship on May 13th, a game Keegan should be back for as he is targeting a return at the end of the league.
He is still hopeful that ahead of that game in Castlebar they can turn the venue into their fortress, with big opportunities to do just that when they host Dublin and Tyrone in the coming weeks.
“It’s anything but [a fortress] at the moment, and that’s probably a very disappointing aspect for us,” said the Westport man. “I think our away record is brilliant, our home record not so good. I think a lot of teams want to do it the opposite way around.”
Losses to Dublin
Mayo’s ultimate target is to win the All-Ireland title that the county craves following final defeats in 2012, 2013, 2016 and 2017, the last three all one-point losses to Dublin.
Just about everyone has an opinion on why Mayo haven’t broken through yet; from Aidan O’Shea apparently holding the team back to their shallow panel.
Keegan smiled when asked what he thinks they need to do to win an All-Ireland.“Beat Dublin!” said the four-time All-Ireland runner-up. “If we’d beaten Dublin once we could have beaten them two or three times, and have two or three All-Irelands.
“I think until the core group of us actually beat Dublin, which we haven’t done since 2012, then that’s going to be the biggest factor for us.
“I think once we get over the line once with them we’re going to have that belief to say, ‘you know what, if we get them in another big game we know we can beat them’.
“And we believe we can beat them, that’s not our issue. It’s that we just have to beat them, that’s where our problems have come from. We have put ourselves in brilliants positions to do it, look at last year, two points up with seven minutes to go, but still didn’t get across the line.”
Keegan was the subject of bizarre rumours after last year’s Championship when it was suggested locally that he suffered from multiple sclerosis.
“Ah, it was madness,” he said. “I wouldn’t mind if it was an actual injury. I remember hearing before the 2012 All-Ireland that I had a broken leg yet I was able to run on the pitch! Stuff like that’s fine, you can deal with that, but when it comes to serious health issues, you don’t want to be hearing that.
“It’s just crazy, to be honest, I’ll never know the source of it at all. You’ll always hear, ‘I heard it from the horse’s mouth’, or ‘I heard from a close family relative’. If you’d tell me the relative I could talk to them! But to be honest, I haven’t a clue where it originated from, and you know what, I don’t want to know either. I’ll only get mad if I know who said it.”