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People would love sport in any form


TOUGH NUT: Breaffy and Mayo footballer Aidan O’Shea at the launch of the re-release of AIB’s GAA series ‘The Toughest Trade’ on Virgin Media Television this summer. Photo: Sportsfile

TOUGH NUT: Breaffy and Mayo footballer Aidan O’Shea at the launch of the re-release of AIB’s GAA series ‘The Toughest Trade’ on Virgin Media Television this summer. Photo: Sportsfile


TOUGH NUT: Breaffy and Mayo footballer Aidan O’Shea at the launch of the re-release of AIB’s GAA series ‘The Toughest Trade’ on Virgin Media Television this summer. Photo: Sportsfile

Aidan O'Shea turns 30 next month. If the clock is ticking for him as the current season remains on ice, he doesn't hear it.

Any anxiety about the prospect of a missed opportunity this summer, or even later in the year, in pursuit of that elusive All-Ireland title for him and his group, is tapered by his own physical well-being. If he has to wait, his body and mind, he suggests, can accommodate it.

"From a personal point of view. I've been very lucky. This is my 12th year. I haven't experienced injuries, I feel really good," he admitted.

"It doesn't look it but I feel 24/25. I'd like to think I look after myself well enough that, unfortunately, if there is no championship this year that I'll be okay in terms of getting back up to that level next year. I'm feeling pretty comfortable, pretty confident in terms of where I'm at."

He accepts, however, that some in his own dressing room may have considered 2020 to be their last year on the carousel.

"There are inter-county footballers who maybe thought it was their last year and that's a difficult place to be in at the moment in terms of not to get a championship played. Maybe they're not too sure whether they'll play into 2021."

The fact that there might not be a green light later in the year is tempered by the bigger picture, a decision he'll comfortably live with.

"I think what's more important is we're talking about saving people's lives here."

On balance, O'Shea feels the break will help as many as it will hinder in Mayo, noting the speed of personnel change over the last 18 months has altered their profile considerably.

"Jason Doc (Doherty) had an ACL injury last year so he's coming back and in a good place. You've Cillian (O'Connor), Donal Vaughan and Mattie Ruane, who had a shoulder operation after the Sigerson.

"The same narrative is going to be there when we get back, the same players et cetera, but anyone who's been following us closely can see there's a change. We've brought in some good players in the last 18 months in particular.

"I think we played some crazy amount of players in the championship last year, up on 30-something players and then in the league, close to 40.

"The break probably suits some of our players but probably not the younger ones who felt that they were in a bit of a rhythm."

If a return to play gets the go-ahead, O'Shea is already on record as saying club should come first and he sticks by that now, even if the practicalities and logistics of piecing an inter-county competition together appear easier.

"I don't want to row back on what I said on the 'Late Late Show,' that it's important that as an organisation club football takes precedence.

"If there is to be football this year and we have to wait, if it had to be one or the other, we should be making sure we build back up from the club. From a control perspective and talking to some of the doctors, that's a challenge.

"If we have a local derby ,here with the club and people are so hungry for sport, you'll see crowds that you'd probably never see at a club game. Is the inter-county game a little bit more controlled in terms of numbers, in terms of resources? I would think it is."

If inter-county games are to be behind-closed-doors, O'Shea says he would have no issue with that "if it brought a bit of joy back to people in their houses."

"I thought about it and if it's an absolute, we have to play behind closed doors, I would love to play," he said, admitting watching Bundesliga games take place in that environment has been "surreal."

"It flies in the face of the GAA and what we are about, we're not a professional organisation, the whole idea is that it is a community-based game. People go and see their team, they go and support them, they travel and I know it's different times and maybe this is the new normal for a while.

"People would love to see sport back in some capacity. As a player, if we can do that, absolutely I'd be up for it."

The restrictions have triggered self-sufficiency for players as they seek to maintain fitness, largely in isolation and with limited resources, prompting some to suggest that the average 31-hour week, which the inter-county player invests in preparation as per the 2018 ESRI report, could be significantly stripped back with new practices.

Some, like Ulster GAA secretary Brian McAvoy, believe the pandemic's effects has illustrated the games at inter-county level can't ever become professional. O'Shea has said he has never advocated for a professional game in the first place and feels any references may be linked to preparation costs.

"I find it hard for the players in this argument because we're not asking for professionalism but we want to train and work as best we can to be the best we can, as an individual and as a team, and to provide the best product on the football pitch.

"It's a difficult one. I understand some of the costs for some of the counties are crazy, maybe there should be controls around that, I don't know. High-performance sport is expensive, and that's what we're in."