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Dublin: 10 °C Monday 27 May, 2019
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'He's a freak of nature, we're blessed to have him' - Aidan O'Shea on Diarmuid O'Connor

The Mayo star also lamented his side’s sluggish start to this year’s league campaign.

Mayo forward Aidan O'Shea.
Mayo forward Aidan O'Shea.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

MAYO STAR AIDAN O’Shea has lamented his side’s “sluggish” to the league but remains full of confidence as attention turns towards championship football.

The Connacht champions, under the stewardship of new manager Stephen Rochford, began their Division One campaign with defeats against Cork, Dublin and Donegal before eventually only missing out on the league semi-finals on score difference.

But O’Shea said there were still plenty of positives to take from the campaign as they look towards their Connacht championship opener against London on 29 May in Ruislip.

“We used 35 players in the league, which would have been unheard of for us in the last few years. And boys coming back late, Cillian (O’Connor) back late, Keith (Higgins) gone for most of the league, and with that boys got a run.

“We just got on the side of a few bad results. The Dublin game was a messy night, there was nothing in that night, and bar the Cork game there was nothing in it.”

Reigning All-Ireland and league champions Dublin won all seven of their regulation games before booking a spot in next weekend’s top-tier league final against Kerry with a semi-final victory against Donegal on Sunday.

They may have lost two key defenders in Jack McCaffrey and Rory O’Carroll to work and travel commitments but O’Shea feels that they are still the standard-bearers when it comes to strength in depth.

“At the start of the league, they were not relying on a few of their key guys, I don’t think Paul Flynn or Bernard (Brogan) played in the early rounds, and obviously Jack and Rory are not playing.

“Their squad gives them the capability to keep churning out results.”

The Kingdom have also impressed O’Shea in 2016, particularly the form of some of their more experienced players such as Darran O’Sullivan, Colm Cooper and Kieran Donaghy.

“Kerry have bolstered their squad quite significantly compared to last year.

They have a lot more options. Darran is back, fully fit, Donaghy came back very fit, same with Gooch. So they look like they have a lot more options and as the league progressed, they got a lot more players back.

“They totally deserve to be in league final. I think it is going to be a good game. Probably Dublin to sneak it but they’re definitely the two form teams at the moment.”

Spirits

Despite a mixed league campaign for the seniors, the county’s U21 side, who take on the Dubs in an All-Ireland semi-final in Tullamore on Saturday, have helped to keep spirits high.

“There’s been a lot of pressure on those shoulders for the last couple of years for anyone who has played U21 for Mayo,” said O’Shea, who was speaking at the launch of the Kellogg’s GAA Cúl Camps in Croke Park.

“It was my first year at U21 the last time they won a Connacht championship (2009) so it was too long.”

And with Young Footballer of the Year Diarmuid O’Connor to the fore, O’Shea is confident that they can secure a spot in the All-Ireland final.

Source: Presseye/Andrew Paton/INPHO

“He’s your typical, modern-day wing-forward. I think Ciarán Kilkenny, Donnchadh Walsh and Diarmuid – they’re the top guys at the moment in that role.

“But he’s just… he’s a bit of a freak of nature, to be fair. We’re just blessed to have him.”

Training

After a week off, O’Shea went back to training with Mayo last night as the panel’s focus now turns to their trip to Ruislip at the end of next month.

If, as expected, they overcome that hurdle, Mayo can look forward to a Connacht semi-final against Galway in Castlebar. But O’Shea, having played in Mayo’s nervy, extra-time win against the Exiles in 2011, will be taking nothing for granted when they travel across the Irish Sea.

“The last time we played London, we nearly lost,” he explained.

“We missed a penalty early on and it just snowballed from there.

“Myself, Trev Mortimer and Kevin McLoughlin came off the bench, and the two boys came up with big scores.

To be honest I thought we were gone. It was a crazy, crazy atmosphere, something I’ll never forget.

“Maybe we just took our eye off the ball, missed a few frees, and it took us to the last second to turn it around, and thankfully in extra time we got the job done.”

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Alan Waldron

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