Mayo manager Stephen Rochford has moved to quench hopes that Lee Keegan will be able to make a Robbie Henshaw-style recovery from shoulder surgery in time to face Galway in the Connacht championship on Sunday week.
The former footballer of the year dislocated his shoulder in the Allianz National League defeat to Tyrone almost seven weeks ago, but despite Keegan making good progress in his recovery, Rochford is not hopeful of a quicker than expected return.
The Westport defender had surgery on the shoulder a week later, and according to Rochford he has yet to take on contact training.
“He’s back doing some running but hasn’t been in any contact. I don’t see him partaking in the game. It’s only seven weeks this weekend, which is six weeks post op,” said Rochford, speaking at the launch of the Connacht championship at the province’s centre of excellence at Bekan in Co Mayo on Tuesday.
“I know locally they’re all thinking how did Robbie Henshaw get back [for Leinster]. In a professional environment more can be done. He isn’t in our plans. I don’t know what he [Henshaw] had but Lee required surgery. We’re planning very much without him.”
There was brighter outlook regarding captain Cillian O’Connor’s hamstring injury, while a triple defensive boost is a timely lift for last year’s All-Ireland finalists.
"Cillian has progressed well. He isn't back into full training just yet. But we're confident that he will be involved. Brendan Harrison is in full training, he has had some game time with club. Chris Barrett, Donal Vaughan are back."
On the other side of the border, Kevin Walsh is aiming to lead his side to a second Connacht title in three years, but he thinks this year’s Division One finalists are very much underdogs against what he claims are the ‘second best team in Ireland’.
Every county has hopes of reaching the Super 8 stages of the championship, but the losing team on Sunday week will have to win three qualifier games to reach that stage, as opposed to one more for the victors. Walsh knows exactly the importance of victory at MacHale Park.
“Yeah it’s a huge game, there’s no doubt about that. We all know the length of the backdoor which is really, really long. One of the teams are going to be in there regardless of what it is,” said Walsh.
“The fact that it’s two teams from Division One, you have to be ready for either way so it’s important that whatever happens we take care of ourselves. I suppose the ideal route is the front door but we’ll have to see how it goes.
“It’s certainly a different challenge. We’re still underdogs, there’s no doubt about that. We’re playing the second best team in Ireland, but the expectation is that we’ll run them very very close. We’ll have to deal with that.”
A three-point defeat to Dublin in the league final earned Galway plenty of plaudits, especially coming on the back of their draw with Jim Gavin's side in Pearse Stadium earlier in the competition. That win was earned by a Dublin team reduced to 14 players following the sending off of Niall Scully, and Walsh says he'd have liked his side to push on a bit more.
“Getting the extra match was the bonus but, given what Dublin had done to certain teams in the past, putting in a performance was important.
“I think we did perform to a certain level and with ten minutes to go and with an extra man you would have liked to push on, but in fairness to Dublin they showed their experience, their pass completion was quite high, their running was strong and they held the ball well.
“I suppose we threw a few bodies forward and conceded a few late points but you have to hand it to Dublin. They are the benchmark and coming right behind them is Mayo and that is who we have to go up against on their own patch, which is not going to be easy.”