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Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Cathal Noonan/INPHO Mayo wing-back Lee Keegan.
# Bouncing Back
'I don't see why people should be sorry for us, sympathy doesn't get you anywhere'
Mayo star Lee Keegan insists the Connacht champions will bounce back – again.

IT’S BEEN A tough week for Lee Keegan and Mayo following last Saturday’s All-Ireland senior football semi-final defeat to Dublin – but he’s not looking for your sympathy.

Straight-talking and tough-tackling Keegan, who was honoured with the Opel GAA/GPA player of the month award for August yesterday, isn’t prepared to sit around feeling sorry for himself as the build-up begins in earnest to the Kerry-Dublin decider.

“I don’t see why people should be sorry for us,” he said.

“No-one feels sorry for Dublin or Kerry if they’re beaten, so there’s no-one feeling sorry for us.

“We just have to keep coming back. We’re a good enough team to win it and sympathy doesn’t really get you anywhere really, does it?

“You’re either good enough to win it or your not. I know we are good enough but we haven’t proved it yet, and that’s a tough thing for me to say because we have some of the best players in the country and they’ve demonstrated that over the last four or five years.

Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“So it’s just to do something for the older guys, the likes of Andy Moran and Alan Dillon, Keith Higgins, these lads have been around a lot longer than I have so it would be just great for them to finish their careers on a good high.

“But sympathy…at the end of the day we’re only trying our best, we’re only human, we make mistakes like anyone else.”

Keegan insisted that he will have no problem taking in the mouthwatering 20 September decider, despite the fact that Mayo won’t be there.

“Oh absolutely, I love watching big games at Croke Park.

“I know I’m not in it and I’ll be sad but at the end of the day, life goes on, so I’m really looking forward to a cracking game there and see who comes out on top.

Colm Cooper scores a goal Donall Farmer / INPHO Lee Keegan is relishing another Dublin-Kerry final. Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

“I’m a purist, too, I love to watch a bit of Gaelic back to back and see good teams like that playing football, so I expect it to be the game of the summer, big time.”

Keegan pinpointed the concession of goals as one of Mayo’s major failings against the Dubs.

The Connacht champions coughed up two in the drawn game and three in a crazy final quarter during the replay.

“I don’t think we learned enough to win the game (replay), that’s the reality for us,” Keegan admitted.

“Dublin did, they took more goal chances.

Philly McMahon scores his side's second goal James Crombie / INPHO Philly McMahon bundles home Dublin's second goal in the replay against Mayo. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“It’s probably something that has crept up a few times, goals win games and we conceded too many again.

“We conceded two in the first game and three in the second, it’s too many at this level to be conceding.”

Keegan also backed under-fire goalkeeper Rob Hennelly, who has shipped heavy criticism since the replay.

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“I haven’t been talking to him but I have to defend Rob a small bit. I think it’s bit unfair really.

“We are the ones probably to blame because we are the ones out the pitch. We are the ones not winning the breaking ball or not stopping the players coming through.

Robert Hennelly and Dean Rock Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO Mayo goalkeeper Rob Hennelly has shipped some public criticism since last Saturday. Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO / INPHO

“From that point of view I wouldn’t be blaming Rob at all, he’s got a bit of unfair criticism.

“As a Mayo player I’m going to defend one of my teammates when I hear stuff like that.

“Rob is a top keeper, if you look at his stats in the first half alone, I think he just gave one kickout away.

“It’s probably very easy for people to say the two kickouts cost us but the last 15 minutes overall cost us the game.

“As I say we ran out of gas, we have to look at it and see why this happened. I wouldn’t be quick to blame Rob, I don’t think it’s fair he’s taking that kind of criticism.”

And Keegan insists that Mayo will return stronger than ever next year, in their latest quest to end that All-Ireland senior drought dating back to 1951.

“I know it’s not a consolation for us because we were beaten again but we have to keep coming back because what’s the point if you’re not going to think that you can win it?” the Westport man reflected.

“We believe we can win it, we believe that we’re good enough. We just haven’t done it yet.”

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