Friday 28 October 2016

Aidan O'Shea lords the west as Mayo run riot

Records tumble on day of Connacht carnage

Aidan O'Shea
Aidan O'Shea
Jason Doherty, Mayo, in action against Keelan Cawley, Sligo.

WELCOME to a day of carnage in Connacht. A day when records tumbled faster than 'Black Thursday' share prices during the original Wall Street crash. A game that belonged, almost exclusively, to one man mountain - Aidan O'Shea.

You can look at that record-shredding final scoreline - 6-25 to 2-11 - and draw the instant and entirely accurate conclusion that Mayo were awesome en route to their predictable Connacht SFC five-in-a-row coronation while Sligo were, well, utterly hapless.

This was like an U10 Cumann na mBunscol final involving one team of seven-year-old minnows against a group of 12-year-olds playing under false birth certs, led by a fully formed giant swatting away a queue of markers with an unstoppable amalgam of height, heft, power - and poise.


O'Shea was at midfield for the throw-in, had the briefest of interludes on the '40' and then quickly moved inside, from where he wreaked total chaos. He finished with 3-4 from play (reputedly a Connacht final record, albeit open to historical correction) yet even that doesn't convey his influence in all its gory details.

He had a central role in each of Mayo's three other goals; teed up Cillian O'Connor for another goal chance that led to a goal line block; could claim point assists too many to mention; while his hat-trick would have read 4-4 instead but for an 18th minute save by Aidan Devaney.

When it was all over, the man of the moment was left to reflect on the likelihood that the Mayo hype machine will crank up again after a performance that delivered the biggest winning total ever in a provincial football final, plus a record-equalling margin.

"The expectations are the same every year," O'Shea maintained. "It's not really any different and we won't be burdened by it at all. We are just glad that this competition is over and ye will be writing in the papers that the championship only starts now in a couple of weeks' time."

Sligo, it must be said, were complicit in their own horror show script by setting up in such orthodox/naive fashion instead of planting a sweeper in front of their embattled full-back line from the get-go.

Their tormentor-in-chief expressed surprise at the space afforded. "There was talk during the week that they were going to go very defensive," O'Shea remarked, "but with the early goal they had no choice but to play expansive football.

"I thought they were probably trying to get a few scores with the wind in the first half and then close it up, but we didn't really give them that opportunity. We were ten or eleven points up before they got on the board and that threw their tactics out the window."

To be more specific, Mayo led by 2-4 to no score after nine minutes and Niall Murphy's point was but a brief hiatus from the onslaught.

By then, O'Shea hadn't scored himself but had already played a significant creative role in Cillian O'Connor's fourth minute goal before offering himself as the one-two foil for his brother Séamus's goal.

Would it have been different if Sligo had set up 'a la Westmeath' against Dublin? Up to a point: in truth, they never had the physicality, work ethic, speed of movement or thought that Mayo brought to Hyde Park.

And yet they still breached an occasionally porous full-back line for a goal in either half (via Brendan Egan and Pat Hughes) while Adrian Marren and Mark Breheny forced two eye-catching saves from David Clarke.

Something to work on then as the 'real championship' begins, quite likely against a Donegal or Tyrone blanket.



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