Saturday 17 March 2018

Stephen Rochford delivers injury update that all Mayo fans wanted to hear

Lee Keegan of Mayo. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Lee Keegan of Mayo. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Frank Roche

Frank Roche

LEE KEEGAN will resume full training tomorrow with his manager, Stephen Rochford, happy to declare a clean bill of health ahead of their All-Ireland SFC semi-final against Kerry in eight days’ time.

The 2016 Footballer of the Year was a notable absentee for last Monday’s quarter-final replay rout of Roscommon, having been hospitalised during the week with an infection in his foot.

But Rochford insisted afterwards that Keegan could have entered off the bench if required - as it transpired, a 22-point cakewalk meant Mayo never even had to consider that gamble.

The Westport ace took a restricted part in Mayo training on Thursday night and is now set to be unleashed fully from tomorrow onwards.

“Nothing fresh,” Rochford reported at Mayo’s press night in Castlebar yesterday evening, when asked if there were any casualties for their semi-final tomorrow week.

“Lee trained, modified, last night but will train fully this week. Chris Barrett had a bit of a foot injury coming into the game last Monday, so he didn’t train last night but is of no concern really going into the weekend. So there’s nothing new, and we would expect to pick from a full squad.”

He also allayed any fears over Jason Doherty, who was replaced after shipping a second half knock. “Just really a contact injury on his knee, but he trained fully,” Rochford explained.

All of the above leaves the Mayo boss with a welcome headache - wondering who to leave out on the back of his team’s most compelling performance of the season, and with an in-form All Star ready to come back into the starting mix.

Keegan tallied 1-3 in the drawn match on a day when his primary job-spec was to stifle the influence of Roscommon’s Connacht final hero, midfielder Enda Smith.

“There’s always a challenge thankfully in selecting what people might reference as being the right team,” Rochford acknowledged.

“But, look, Lee gives us more options and when we looked at the team prior to the game the last day, we had that conundrum as well.

But we got a really solid performance from the 14 outfield players the last day, and of course David (Clarke) as well ... so it’s a good headache.”

The year-two boss had no issue with the appointment of Maurice Deegan for the semi-final, the Laois referee having officiated at last year’s All-Ireland final replay against Dublin.

Deegan subsequently said his “main regret” from the replay was that he didn’t brandish an early black card to Dublin’s John Small for a hand-trip on Andy Moran, explaining that he “couldn’t really see it properly” from where he was standing.

“If I had black carded him at the time, it probably would have set a better tone to the game. I was very disappointed with myself that I missed that. Apart from that, I was happy enough,” he said.

But Rochford said he was “fine” with the appointment of Deegan, adding: “At this time of the year you’re looking for the best referees and I think Maurice … the quality of games and the big games that he gets over the years puts him in that bracket.”

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