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Kevin Keane’s road to recovery

Sport

LEAPS AND BOUNDS Mayo's Kevin Keane is raring to go after missing most of the National League due to shoulder and knee injuries. Pic: Sportsfile

Interview
Daniel Carey

AT the ‘Mind Yourself’ Health and Wellbeing Seminar organised by his local GAA club last October, Kevin Keane was asked how he deals with stress and 82,000 people shouting at him. “It’s a bit easier than standing here, in fairness!” he told Master of Ceremonies Pierce O’Reilly, as laughter erupted in an audience that included future Mayo manager Stephen Rochford.
“You learn, I suppose,” he continued, on a more serious note.
“Personally, when I was an underage player, I was ratty … Giving out to refs, giving out to my team-mares … My mind was taken away from the game. I wasn’t focused … and it definitely affected me.”
The Westport clubman went on to outline the bones of an argument – apparently between selectors – when he was involved with the Mayo under-16s. One man was arguing that he should be dropped. A man from Ballintubber responded: “We can’t drop Keane. We need him. We need him for his aggression and his footballing ability.” The first man was unconvinced, saying: “He’ll get sent off”.
“From that day, when I heard that, I said ‘I’ve got to change. I’ve got to change,’ Keane told those gathered in Castlecourt Hotel. ”And in fairness, I just made a decision: ‘If I don’t change, I will not make anything’. So any guff I got on the pitch, any hits off the ball, you just have to face up to it and laugh it off. The older you get, you get more personal stuff, but at the end of the day, that’s only talk. It’s cheap.”
He’s needed that kind of mental strength in the past few months.
Last Sunday week, Keane played his first game for Mayo seniors since January, when he injured his shoulder in the FBD League defeat to Roscommon.
A knee problem erupted subsequently, and so it wasn’t until the final game of the National Football League, against Down, that we saw the 25-year-old back in action.
“I’ve been doing a lot of gym work, a lot of rehab, band work, cycling, bike sessions, on my own running – away from the camp,” he told The Mayo News shortly after the final whistle at MacHale Park.
“It’s long, laborious stuff, and sometimes hard mentally as well, because some days you see strides, and some days you don’t, and it’s the days that you don’t is when you need to really grit the teeth and go after it.”
Keane, a multi-dose compounding technician in Allergan, was clearly pleased to be back in the thick of the action. He’s now concentrating on ‘building on’ that return to action with ‘club league games’ and ‘matches and training with the county’.
He sings the praises of Mayo strength and conditioning coach Barry Solan, and emphasises: “Fitness won’t be an issue”.
“I stuck with the process, stuck with the hard work and the rehab, and thankfully, I got my chance,” he reflects. “And I got 70 minutes under my belt, which is vital, just to get up to the pace of the game again, and just get that confidence into the legs, [so] you know that you have it in the tank … The more football I can get, the better.”
The Fahy man also played in Mayo’s previous victory at MacHale Park, which came against NUI, Galway on January 3 in the FBD League.
He praised Mayo’s ‘movement and ball retention’ against Down, but admitted that they had only played ‘in patches’ and had ‘dropped our guard’ at times. The next few weeks would, he predicted, be ‘hard work’ ahead of the trip to London.
“We’ll go away, we’ll fine-tune what we have to fine-tune,” said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done … building on the positives from the league; building our game-plan; individually, getting a lot into the legs. Our main focus is May 29 and London. Nothing else matters at this stage.”

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