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“Keegan should be playing as the plus one at the back”

Steven Poacher discusses Mayo’s tinkering with Lee Keegan and Kevin McLoughlin, their clash against Leitrim, and falling intro traps

Steven Poacher discusses Mayo’s tinkering in defence with Lee Keegan and Kevin McLoughlin, their clash against Leitrim, and falling intro traps.

BY SHANE STAPLETON
Former Carlow coach Steven Poacher can’t understand why Mayo have restyled 2016 Footballer of the Year Lee Keegan as a corner-back.

The Westport man lined out in the number four shirt against Tyrone at the weekend, denying his team his usual lung-bursting runs up the field.

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Keegan has been one of the most dynamic players in the game for a number of seasons, but manager James Horan seems intent on reshuffling his pack in 2020.

Some fresh blood has come into the team, while Keegan and Kevin McLoughlin — playing at centre-back — have taken on new roles.

“The only man who can answer [why] is James Horan,” says Poacher of the move to corner-back. “Lee Keegan is tailor-made at this stage of his career at that ‘plus one’.

“Most teams will pull back and maybe play four up, so they create a sweeper for you.

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“Keegan is the ideal man to sit in front of the full-back line, dictate things, use his experience, his physicality and know-how and sweeper across.

“He should also be trying to pose trouble the other way like Ryan McHugh or Kieran McGeary.

“Yes they do their job defensively, but they will also pose serious problems the other way.

“The biggest one for me is Kevin McLoughlin at number six… he was one of the best industrious wing-forwards in the game and I just don’t know of six suits him. I’d be concerned about that.

“Unquestionably, there doesn’t seem to be an identifiable reason to play him at corner-back.”

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This weekend, Horan’s side take on Leitrim in a Connacht SFC clash that they’re expected to win handily.

Since the return of league action, the Heather County have battered Galway and then were narrowly beaten by Tyrone, after initially falling well behind.

Poacher feels that the Red Hands “caught Mayo a little bit cold” and “they fell into the trap of pressing Tyrone high and trying to play a high-energy game”

“That will win you games but it won’t win you championships.

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“If you come up against a team that are really well organised and play a strong counter-attacking style of football, you’ll get opened up.

“Tyrone opened them up, and opened them up rightly.”

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