Mayo wing-back Lee Keegan. James Crombie/INPHO
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'There are too many loopholes': Keegan calls for change to disciplinary process

The Mayo star is concerned football is being overshadowed by off-field issues.

ANOTHER SUMMER, ANOTHER disciplinary saga overshadowing the action on the field — it’s starting to grate on Footballer of the Year Lee Keegan.

It’s 12 days since Diarmuid Connolly committed “minor physical interference” against linesman Ciaran Branagan and while the case seems to have been put to bed this afternoon, it has been the most prominent talking point in this year’s football championship to date.

It’s illuminating to hear that Keegan, who is still hurting from his side’s loss to arch rivals Galway on Sunday, would much rather talk about football than his old foe Connolly right now.

Simplifying the process would be a great start, Keegan believes, and there are plenty of successful templates in professional sport for the GAA to take a leg-up from.

The amateur ethos of the organisation and its players no doubt contributes to the much-maligned delays, but it is the numerous tiers and apparent loopholes in the disciplinary process that Keegan feels need attention.

“There are too many loopholes,” argues Keegan. “Obviously you’re going to try and find a way to get yourself out of it and it’s unfortunate from that point of view that we’re all talking about disciplinary actions and not the football.

“Of course everyone wants it straightened out and done properly. You look at the likes of rugby and it’s sorted out in a couple of days and everyone knows where they stand, rather than four weeks later and we’re still talking about the same story.

“It’s unfortunate that the media spotlight has been put on Connolly for a lot longer than he wants it to be, because as I said he wants to focus on football and not disciplinary issues.

“Everyone wants to see Diarmuid Connolly play in the summer. He’s one of the best players out there in terms of athleticism and showcasing his skills.”

Mayo have more than enough to be worrying about on the field right now, after their second successive Connacht SFC defeat at the hands of the Tribesmen.

Some commentators have suggested the Green and Red are on the decline, and that a repeat run to the All-Ireland final via the backdoor is beyond them.

Club championship commitments will be a welcome distraction for the Westport man this weekend but with the qualifier draw taking place on Monday, Keegan won’t have too long to ponder where they’re at.

Keegan acknowledges Mayo will have to kick-start their summer earlier this year, as the form shown in uninspiring qualifier victories of 2016 would likely see them come unstuck sooner rather than later.

“Last year we had a bit of luck in terms of we had two home draws straight away. If our performance is like last year in this year’s qualifying route I think it could be a short summer.

From our point of view it’s trying to get a performance ready for the 1st of July, because if we don’t the reality is that we’ll get beaten, and I don’t want to look back and say we got beaten on the 1st of July in the championship, because I’ve been lucky enough over the last six or seven years to be playing in Croke Park in September, so I kind of want to keep it that way this year.

Despite his concerns, Keegan feels the experience of recent seasons, and the likely return to full fitness of talisman Aidan O’Shea, among others, will help Stephen Rochford’s side turn their championship campaign around over the coming weeks.

“I think the bigger the games the better we seem to be getting to be honest, which is a good sign, but it mightn’t be a good sign if we don’t sort out what we need to for the first round of the qualifiers.

“We’re very comfortable when we’re put under such high pressure with people writing us off.

“Hopefully we can get Aidan [O’Shea] in a position where he can get full games into him now as well and we can get his fitness sharpened up because he’s a massive part of what we’re trying to do.

“He just didn’t get back in time in terms of fitness [for Galway]. Rochy is going to pick players that are training full time and that are playing well within training and Aidan knows that himself.”

Lee Keegan, Donnchadh Walsh, Conor McManus and Bernard Brogan Lee Keegan (left), Kerry's Donnchadh Walsh, Conor McManus of Monaghan and Dublin's Bernard Brogan at today's SuperValu’#BehindTheBall campaign launch at Croke Park. Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

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