Mayo's Lee Keegan will be available for semi-final after red card rescinded
Published 29/08/2014 | 02:30
MAYO have received a massive boost ahead of tomorrow's All-Ireland football semi-final replay against Kerry with the news that Allstar defender Lee Keegan will be available to start.
The Westport wing-back was sent off before half-time in last week's drawn game for a petulant kick out at Kerry's Johnny Buckley but he had his red card rescinded last night.
It was a highly controversial decision which was widely debated by pundits and fans afterwards when it was agreed that Keegan's dismissal by referee David Coldrick, while correct according to the strict letter of the law, was harsh and not the sort of incident that warranted missing a match of such consequence.
It is understood that the half-back travelled to Croke Park last night to personally appeal it.
It is believed that Keegan's successful hearing was largely based on video evidence and Mayo were thrilled when news came through late last night.
The two-time Allstar is regarded as one of the best wing-backs in the modern game, and his surging runs upfield to score is a particular trademark of his team.
Keegan is a key component in Mayo's counter-attacking half-back line, around which so much of their play is based, and his return is a huge fillip to the four in-a-row Connacht champions.
Only when they dropped Kevin McLoughlin back into his role last week, abandoned their sweeper system and started running at Kerry, did Mayo make a comeback from four down at half-time to go five points clear.
Kerry made a dramatic return of their own to pull a draw out of the bag in the final stages thanks to a James O'Donoghue goal and equalising point from Dr Crokes game-saver Kieran O'Leary. They had two chances in the dying minute to steal victory which O'Donoghue and Bryan Sheehan missed.
James Horan had deliberately delayed the announcement of his team last night, pending the result of this vital appeal to get one of his most important players back.
Keegan's return will be a massive physical and psychological tonic to Mayo as they go toe-to-toe with the Kingdom a second time tomorrow, in the unfamiliar surrounds of Limerick's Gaelic Grounds, a controversial choice of venue because Croke Park is unavailable due to an American football match.
Elsewhere Dublin football manager Jim Gavin says there is no lingering bad blood between themselves and Donegal ahead of their semi-final on Sunday. The last time they met - in a drawn league game in Ballybofey last year which consigned Donegal to relegation - the Ulster side made an official allegation that one of their players was bitten by a Dublin player.
There were also several flash-points in their drawn All-Ireland semi-final in 2011 when Diarmuid Connolly was sent off in the 58th minute on a red card that was subsequently rescinded.
But Gavin has denied that there will be any simmering tension between them in Sunday's big re-match.
"Certainly not," he said."It's a contact sport and there's physical exchanges but once the final whistle is blown, there's great respect there for Donegal or for any team that we play.
"From my perspective, there's a height of respect for Donegal and their traditions and the way they play their football," Gavin said.
"They're very passionate about Gaelic games. Down through the years, we've had some fantastic games against them."