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Friday 9 December 2016

Hard work paying off for Aidan O'Shea, says Mayo star Cillian O'Connor

21 July 2015; In attendance at the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Series 2015 launch, from left, Philly McMahon, Dublin, Cillian O'Connor, Mayo, James O'Donoghue, Kerry, and Conor McManus, Monaghan, with the Sam Maguire Cup. Killarney Legion
21 July 2015; In attendance at the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Series 2015 launch, from left, Philly McMahon, Dublin, Cillian O'Connor, Mayo, James O'Donoghue, Kerry, and Conor McManus, Monaghan, with the Sam Maguire Cup. Killarney Legion

MAYBE it's a regional thing.But while Donegal have employed Michael Murphy ever deeper and deeper in an effort to get him on the ball more often and influence play in a more direct manner, Mayo have sent Aidan O'Shea in the opposite direction with the same intentions.

The results - particularly the scoring statistics - couldn't be more starkly adverse.

O'Shea kicked 3-4 at the weekend. Murphy scored just 0-1 from play in the entire Ulster SFC.

"He's worked incredibly hard on his own. Done an awful lot of stuff to improve his game," notes team-mate, Cillian O'Connor.

"He's improved his ball skill a lot.

"Improved his handling, and hand positioning.

"His footwork too, and he's more skilful than people thought, holding the ball, and making sure he's not just bowling them over, like in under-16 club games against us."

flying

"He's very disciplined, and careful where he puts the ball, and his hand, and he's flying.

"It depends on the day, and the opposition," O'Connor adds.

"It depends on the way some teams set up. The last game or two, Aido got space inside, or made his own space."

Maybe it's just a case of how adept or otherwise an opposition are in stopping either man.

Murphy, for instance, has had his four afternoons in this year's Championship so far invaded by the likes of Tyrone's Justin McMahon and last Sunday, Monaghan's Vinny Corey.

Against Galway, O'Shea was fouled repeatedly and so naive was Sligo's defensive alignment last weekend in the Connacht final massacre, you'd wonder whether they paid any attention to the Mayo/Galway match.

BENEFICIAL

For O'Connor - ever identified as the beginning, middle and end of the top quality in the Mayo attack - the move has been very obviously beneficial.

"He's another point in the attack," he notes.

"We've always had runners in the half-forward line, to take some heat of us, but even more so this year, with Aido. I've found myself in more space."

O'Connor's experience now is such that a sense of perspective isn't hard to find, even in the direct aftermath of such a comprehensive win as Sunday's in Dr Hyde Park.

"I think, when you're younger and you're coming up, if you have a massive win in a quarter- or a semi-final, you might start thinking that you've the job done or that you're the finished article," the Ballintubber man points out.

"It was a little weird in the last 10 or 15 minutes when the game was up, but what can you do in that situation?

"You just have to keep plugging away and I think we still took our scores well towards the end.

"But it's strange,"O'Connor concludes, "I suppose the atmosphere wasn't what you'd expect."

Mayo

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