Friday 23 August 2019

'Championship is where you want to perform' - League success a thing of the past as Lee Keegan eyes big summer

John West Ambassador and Mayo Footballer Lee Keegan in attendance at the launch of the 2019 John West Féile at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
John West Ambassador and Mayo Footballer Lee Keegan in attendance at the launch of the 2019 John West Féile at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Winning their first League title in 18 years in last month's Division 1 final in Croke Park was mighty at the time, but just two days later Lee Keegan and Mayo were back "getting our arses kicked" in club action.

Keegan soaked up the euphoria of a rare national title at GAA HQ but there was no resting on his laurels as the former Footballer of the Year got back in the groove with Westport.

Mayo boss James Horan – in his second stint at the helm – has adopted a strict policy of only picking players in form so Keegan was "back to business straight away".

"It’s been a hectic few weeks. We were back with the club the following Tuesday. So we were getting our arses kicked by a lot of lads. So it’s been a tough two weeks," Keegan said as John West renewed their National Féile sponsorship until 2022.

"It was very short-lived. We didn’t have a lot of time to waste because we had club Championship at the weekend. So I mean it was really back to business straight away.

"James put a lot of pressure on us to perform because again, no-one’s getting picked if they’re not playing well. So it’s good to be back, but a long way to go yet."

There was a lot of commentary about the celebrations in the aftermath of their League final defeat of Kerry but while Keegan enjoyed the success, he insists there are bigger fish to fry this summer.

"People have their contrasts because of the way we celebrated but any time you win anything it should be celebrated. But it was one night. That was it. We were back training on the Tuesday," he said.

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"People probably made a lot of it. And it was very satisfactory. And again, if you’re in any competition, you try and win it. And it was great to win here. But I think at the same time, it’s only the League.

"Championship is where you want to perform. I think it was important for ourselves to recognise that."

With former captain Cillian O'Connor and young prospect Cian Hanley returning to club action last weekend, Keegan expects competition for places to heat up even more ahead of their Connacht SFC clash with New York in the Big Apple on May 5.

“Cillian came on (for Ballintubber in the opening round of the Mayo SFC last Saturday) and kicked a score and looked sharp enough. And Cian Hanley came on and got a huge goal for his club (Ballaghadereen) at the weekend," Keegan said.

"So it’s definitely bringing great power and depth to our squad seeing these lads getting game time. Cillian is definitely one of our big leaders in the squad so to have him back training is going to be a huge plus. And it definitely adds to the competition."

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