CORK'S pre-match remarks about 'tactical fouling' by the Mayo forwards were a sign of fear from the opposition, according to Lee Keegan.
The two-time All Star wing-back (above) has echoed the complaint of James Horan that Mayo's integrity was questioned when Cork selector Ronan McCarthy singled out Cillian O'Connor and Kevin McLoughlin as two forwards who are "good at tactical fouling".
But he also suggested that it reflected a fear on Leeside, ahead of last Sunday's All-Ireland SFC quarter-final, about Mayo's physical power.
"It was mentioned as well last year by Donegal," Keegan pointed out. "We sense a bit of fear when they start saying that.
"Listen, they can say what they want - the main thing is that we got the result. I know [Cork's management] tried to get on the referee's side but I think Cormac Reilly is a very clever man and he didn't really buy into it."
The Westport man added: "We felt our integrity was questioned which was not nice, but we went out and did our job and got the job done which was the main thing. They can say what they want but, at the end of the day, it is about getting results and we are in the All-Ireland semi-final and they are not."
Keegan was less obviously riled than his manager who, in his press conference after Sunday's one-point win, took grave exception to remarks during the week from Brian Cuthbert (who had called for strong refereeing against a "streetwise" Mayo) but especially McCarthy. "Let Brian worry about that and we will worry about the result," said Keegan.
"I wouldn't agree with him because it put our integrity into a bit of doubt. I wouldn't have been too impressed with it but I wouldn't worry about it either. He has his own problems to be worrying about."
Mayo's next 'problem' is Kerry, the only team standing in the way of a third consecutive All-Ireland appearance. Keegan wasn't in Croker for the 2004 and 2006 final massacres: "I don't think I can watch them back either, I would give myself palpitations!" he laughed.
Stressing that Mayo won't "dwell on those games too much", he went on: "Kerry have been very impressive this year, they are playing very free-flowing football. They are a team we are going to have to take very seriously because if we don't, they will put us to the sword straight away. That is the thing that we have to learn (from the Cork game) - that if we give them the chances, Kerry will take them."
Keegan had special praise for two survivors from '04 and '06, Alan Dillon and Andy Moran.
"These are the stalwarts of our team, the two leaders down through the years on the panel. Dillon kicked four monster points; Andy is just one of the most unselfish men that you could ever hope to play with in terms of the runs that he makes for the team. Both of them really stood up today and put their critics to bed," he declared.
By Frank Roche