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A winter playing basketball in Sligo and back from injury for another summer of hope with Mayo

The 26-year-old turned to another sport in the wake of their All-Ireland final loss.

LAST WINTER AIDAN O’Shea was hurting after his Gaelic football hopes had been thwarted on two fronts.

Aidan O’Shea Mayo footballer Aidan O'Shea. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Another near miss for Mayo as their long and exhausting wait for Sam Maguire continued.

A club semi-final exit with Breaffy as their search for a maiden county senior football crown was prolonged.

If October was a month punctuated by dispiriting GAA losses, he turned to another arena in November for his sporting fix.

2017 AIB All-Ireland Football Championship Launch Aidan O'Shea at today's 2017 AIB 'Club Fuels County' GAA launch. Source: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

Making the two hour round trip from home in Castlebar to train with EJ’s Sligo All-Stars was a return to a sport that had consumed plenty of his time during his teenage years.

The 26-year-old had played to a high standard at schools level with St Gerald’s in Castlebar.

“People said to me, was it a strategic decision around bettering yourself as a footballer? Not at all, it was just simply an enjoyment thing.

“I love playing basketball, I love watching basketball, I played a huge amount when I was a young fella. The school was massive for basketball.

“I was on the Irish team when I was younger, fell short on the European championships. Some of those guys are still playing. Paul Dick is still playing in Spain, the James twins play here in Dublin, Ciaran O’Sullivan plays down in Cork, Cathal Finn plays in Galway.

“So there’s a good few of them still knocking around, I would have played with a lot of those boys.

“I don’t declare to be unbelievable at it. That was the premise, I went up on (with) zero expectation.

“I won’t say (I was) sick of it because I’m never sick of Gaelic football but I just wanted to put the gear away for a while and try something different.

“It was a totally different buzz. Anyone that goes to a basketball game, there’s music blaring, kids running around, jumping around and having craic.

“It’s just totally different and it kind of brought back a bit of my youth to me. I really enjoyed it and just looked forward to the trip to Sligo. It never bothered me, I loved it.

“The boys, they’re a really talented group so I was just happy to contribute in any way, shape or form. I will definitely be going back down again in whatever capacity – I’d just love to be playing again in the winter.”

Aidan O'Shea Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The time in Sligo was a chance to pursue a sport that he has always been an avid follower of. O’Shea tries to take in an NBA game live annually and is at pains to stress that his team of choice is not linked to any recent wave of success.

“People think I’m jumping on the bandwagon but I’m not. I think I was in Transition Year when Steph Curry was at Davidson and Michael Bree would’ve been at Davidson as well – he’s from Sligo.

“I followed Davidson in the NCAA tournament when Curry just shot the lights out and it’s the only March Madness I’ve really gotten into because I was in TY and I was staying up late at night watching basketball.

“Last year, I got two (NBA games) in – I’ve been to six or seven now at this stage. I’ll try and get two in a year now if I can, if it’s possible.”

The ankle injury he picked up in January curtailed his basketball involvement and robbed Mayo of his services for a large chunk of the league, before he returned to feature against Donegal.

“I was out for probably longer than I’d hoped, about 10 weeks in all. It was very slow to start with and I couldn’t do an awful lot. It’s just frustrating.

“I slagged the physio that I could be back in 10 days, never mind 10 weeks. But thankfully it’s all good now.”

Aidan O'Shea Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The beckoning of a new championship season generates an enthusiasm that was difficult to locate at times when 2016 finished.

“I think probably the fact that there’s three (finals) we’ve lost, time starts to play on your mind.

“Look yeah it was difficult, compounded by the club getting knocked out early in the championship. It was a tough winter.

Aidan O'Shea and Michael Murphy Aidan O'Shea battles for possession with Michael Murphy in Castlebar Source: Tom Beary/INPHO

“I don’t get too bogged down on it. I probably did when I was younger. (I) focus on the group, focus on my family and things that are important to me. Once I focus on those kind of things, I know that will motivate me to play well.

“We’ve had a lot of long summers – and long winters too. Growing up as an innocent young fella, I was probably expecting that this [success] was just going to happen.

“Unfortunately, I’m still here at 26 and it hasn’t changed but we’re moving the right way, we’re doing the right things.

“We’ve gotten to the latter stages for a reason and I think we’re capable of finishing off the job – we just need to get it done.”

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Aidan O’Shea was speaking today at AIB’s 2017 senior football championship launch.

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