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Thursday 19 October 2017

O'Connor happy to sideline missed free against Dublin

Cillian O'Connor. Photo: Sportsfile
Cillian O'Connor. Photo: Sportsfile

Cillian O'Connor won't win many prizes for career-long commitment to the FBD League but he was glad to put his hand up for selection last January.

Why? Because it helped him to park that free … 

Instead of continually harking back to the equaliser chance that got away at the end of last year's All-Ireland final replay, the Mayo captain has been looking forward all season to the next game.  

Be it in Connacht's pre-season cobweb-remover. Or in the Allianz League. Or against Sligo last month. Or now, this Sunday's Connacht SFC semi-final against Galway in Pearse Stadium. Inevitably, though, O'Connor was steered back to that fateful moment against Dublin last October when he spoke at eir's Croke Park launch of the All-Ireland SFC. 

"I don't think about it a whole lot now," the Mayo marksman reveals. "The lads had been slagging me: I hadn't played much FBD League the last few years and the lads were always ribbing me that I always took the January and February off and let them do the hard slogging. 

"This year I was never as glad to see the FBD starting and the games up and running again, because we had our few weddings over the Christmas which were great craic and then the team holiday … but by the time the league started we were like 'Let's get this going again, let's get started.' 

"Right up to now my focus has been game on game. Not even intentionally, but I'm glad that I haven't been harping back to September and October.  

"At the time, of course, it is a serious disappointment," he confirms. "That is stating the obvious. Then you have to go through it and analyse it. There is a period where you try and reflect on it, to see what you could have done better, and that's hard. But then after that, you have to leave it there and enjoy your off-season. So since the turn of the year I haven't watched it back." 

Delving into that free from the Hogan side into the Hill 16 goals, O'Connor muses: "It was late in the game but I don't think it was through tiredness. I wouldn't say it was a very difficult free but the angle required a good strike.  

"I had to cut through the breeze with it, and it just didn't maybe get the follow-through that I wanted and that would bring it in at the right post. I have to leave that in 2016 and that's what I've done."

He reckons he is good at parking such pivotal moments.   "As a free-taker, the last seven or eight years, you have to be pretty cold about it," the Ballintubber clubman explains. 

"You could hit a brilliant free in the first minute and, if you are thinking about that in the second minute, you are on you're a*** with your defender. 

"It's the same if you kick a bad free, you have to win the next ball."

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