"After a hectic couple of weeks now with games every week it's been busy, thankfully have got over the hard part - well some of the hard parts - and we're back where we want to be, an All Ireland final on the 17th of September," Footballer of the Year Lee Keegan told Midwest Radio this morning.
The flying half back who won an All Ireland club title with Westport this year praised the efforts of the Mayo supporters this year, the #16thMan, and picked out the qualifying win over Cork as a special moment in the journey so far.
"It's been an up and down year in terms of the way it's gone, probably not the route we wanted to take but it is something we have experienced last year. I suppose we couldn't have foreseen what was going to happen with replays and extra-times and that - it's definitely been up and down. But we've been very lucky with our support, Cork stands out for me big time because the amount of fans that went to Limerick that day to support us was unimaginable. We are very blessed to have such support around us at the moment and we are very happy to be back in the final and we have plenty left to work on. I'm really looking forward to the next three weeks, looking forward to getting back to training and working on what we need to improve.
Despite the stick that Mayo have taken, Keegan said that the squad were very much behind the management team, telling Tommy that there was huge trust between the players and the managements "and you could see that in the performance on Saturday".
"Playing games makes you a bit more battle-hardened, and that's what has happened us this year. We are going into our tenth game of the year and it's really come down to a lot of one score games. Derry had a chance to put us out of the championship, Cork brought us to extra-time, Roscommon... so you know it's something that we're experienced in. Listen, we'd love to be winning games in normal time and within a one game parameter, but again look that's just the route we took again. This team have been around together a long time though, we're improving every game and we know when it comes down to the stretch we are capable of beating teams, whether it be by one point or five points as it was at the weekend and we're really lucky to have a great backroom team this year and everyone of the players is pushing so hard to get in the squad and that's keeping us on our toes. We know if we're not going well, Stephen is not afraid to make changes and bring lads in. It's very much up to ourselves, we are in such a great place and we trust our management so much with what we're doing - you could see within the performance on Saturday how much we do trust them and how it worked out in the end."
Keegan looked forward to the battle against a team he knows very well in the All Ireland final and had a word of praise for the reigning champions. He was quick to point out as well though that Mayo will leave no stone unturned in their quest for victory.
"I wouldn't be so sure about the justice part of it... when you're good enough to win it, you're good enough to win it and that's the way the attitude of our group is. We've come up against a Dublin team over the last four or five years that have exemplified football with the way they've transformed and played. They've won four All Ireland's in six years and are going for three in a row and you can't under-estimate how good that team are that we're playing. Listen we've been here before, we've experienced the build up, we're well experienced from that point of view and again our management have a good system in place so we'll just focus on our training aspect and work on what we need to for the final. So our build-up for the final will be very low-key but of course the players are looking forward to it, it's the pinnacle for every footballer, they want to be back on the third Sunday in September in an All Ireland final. There's plenty of other people externally to help us within the group with tickets and bits and pieces like that. Sometimes it can become a bit of a circus if you let it take over but we are very lucky that we have a backroom team in place that that's all looked after. We just need to train hard, work on the things we need to improve and give it a right, right good go. We have a serious belief within our squad that we are capable of winning, it's just a case of getting over the next few weeks and looking at the bits we have done well so we can try and beat Dublin. We've loads to work on and we're just looking forward to a serious test on the 17th of September."
Lee was talking to us in association with SuperValu #BehindTheBall initiative. Listen back to the full interview for more details.
Image via MichaelMaye.com