O'Shea ready to roll when the ball is ready to be thrown in


Ready to go when the call comes. Photo: Sportsfile

Ready to go when the call comes. Photo: Sportsfile

Last Sunday - had all been right in the world - Mayo could have played the Connacht senior football championship semi-final and would then have, hopefully, been looking forward to a provincial final date in a fortnight's time. Such a scenario is unfortunately not to be at the moment - however, when the bell IS rung to start the championship, it won't take Mayo long to get up and ready for it - according to Aidan O'Shea.

The Breaffy and Mayo player was speaking this week at a media event to relaunch the re-release of the AIB Toughest Trade TV show, which will air on Virgin Media Television this summer.

Asked how hard it will be for Mayo to get up and going if the call comes from the GAA top brass, O'Shea said: "It depends; everyone will be in different spaces, some people will be disappointed to have had to stop in the middle of their season, some players who have been injured and haven't had a game yet - it probably suits them - so it is a mixed bag for everybody. I know there are guys in our own squad who got a lot of game time and were in good positions, and all of a sudden you have guys coming back from injury who probably see it as a blessing.

"For me, personally, it's a bit strange - but it is kind of a second pre-season. I had an operation on my shoulder and missed a lot of the off season and it has given me an opportunity to get a lot of work in. But it is going to be a challenge and I mean, just the getting back into contact, into knowing each other's ways and how we play, that will be a challenge; but it will be a challenge for every team and who picks that up the quickest, it will stand to them - but it will be very strange to be honest."

When asked whether there was an anxiety you could be slipping behind others during this closed period, he said: "No, I'm not too worried about that to be honest. I think, based on what John Horan has said in terms of the club and time lines around training - there is plenty of time for people to catch up and as long as you are not doing the dog on it in the next month or so, you will be fine. I think there is no issue with fitness levels, it is just about the team element when we get back together, it is about gelling as we can, because being away for so long, that is going to be a challenge.

Potential knock-out or behind closed doors games

As for if the championship was to come back as a straight knock-out competition - as it was pre 2001 - O'Shea said he'd be up for it. "I think we need to be creative and there are opportunites there; if we need to limit the amount of games because you need to go straight knock out, it would be very exciting and there is pressure on every game them. I would be well up for it if that is the case - at the moment we are just waiting to see what they come up with."

The German Bundesliga was the first major sporting league to come back recently, with the action taking place behind closed doors. Were that to happen with games here, O'Shea said he would be ready for it, saying: "I watched a bit of the Bundesliga - and I will never complain about there being too much sport on the TV again. It is a bit surreal and a bit weird hearing all the chatter from the players and the benches. We'll probably see that again when the Premier League comes back and you'll be able to understand what they are saying and that will be interesting to see.

"If it is an absolute and we have to play behind closed doors, I'd love to play. I do think it flies a little bit in the face of the GAA and what we are about though; we are not a professional organisation and the whole idea is we are a community based game and people go and see their team, support them and travel. I know this is a different space and time and maybe this is the new normal for a while, but I would be of the opinion we should be playing in front of supporters. But maybe our hands are tied on this one. Is there a happy medium - playing behind closed doors and giving people an outlet to watch on television? Is that a happy medium? I think people would love to see sport back in some capacity and as a player, if we can do that and it brings a bit of joy back to people in their houses, I'd be up for it."

But if it comes to a choice between club football and county games, O'Shea said he would like to see the games built back up from the ground, up from club level, if a choice had to be made.

"I don't want to row back on what I said before. I think it is important as an organisation that club football takes precedence. What I mean by that is, if there is to be football this year and we have to wait, I would like to see - if it has to be one or the other - I would like to see us build back up from the club.

"If we have a local derby here with the club and people are hungry for sport, you would see crowds that you would never see at a club game. If we played Castlebar here in a knock-out club game in August, there is nothing to suggest you wouldn't have 2000 or 3000 at it. How do you manage that from a club perspective? I don't know and then we have the challenges of players living in Dublin and travelling back and up the country, so there are challenges there from a club perspective.

"I don't want to speak for every club player but I'm sure there are players with concerns around that. Is the inter-county game a little bit more controlled in terms of numbers and resources? I would think it is- but if we are building this back up, the club needs to be front and centre, but in the right space."

Break will be good for some

Put to O'Shea that the extended break from the game might be a help to Mayo, due to the age profile of the team - he completely agreed, saying: "I think there are benefits. Jason Doherty had an ACL injury last year, he's coming back in a good place, you'd Cillian, Donal Vaughan and Mattie Raune who had a shoulder operation after the Sigerson and in that space we are quite lucky.

"But I'm not sure if the same narrative is there. When we get back they will say we have the same players - there has been a bit of a change there - and I think if anyone has been following us closely there has been a change there.

"We have brought in some good players over the past 18 months and played a crazy amount of players in the championship last year. I think the break suits some players and doesn't suit some of the younger players, who probably felt they were in a bit of a rhythm and put their hand up for some of the spots before the others came back; and there are some who will benefit from the break and get back at it."

The Last Dance

Like many, O'Shea has spent some time during the lockdown watching the Michael Jordan documentary - The Last Dance - which he really enjoyed - given his own basketball background.

"I was born in 1990 and was too young to live through it, but to see it back, was amazing. I think there was a little bit of an argument around the narrative and that he got to drive the narrative, but even he was such a determined winner it didn't matter who you were but he was ruthless in making sure everybody on the team (was ). The sport is a little bit different in terms or role players that come in a go, being the franchise player he had the autonomy to drive that a little bit more being it a much smaller unit (squad ) it was fascinating insight I'm sure there were little bits left out and exaggerated but still some of the clips and the moments were amazing."

Mayo themselves earlier this season brought in Mayo basketball legends Terry Kennedy and Deora Marsh to do some coaching with the senior squad - something O'Shea feels was a good choice to make and something different.

"Unfortunately I didn't get to partake in it because I had shoulder surgery the week they started, but I was there for the odd session. It was good and different for the guys to get a fresh insight - I think the boys got something out of it. Deora and Terry are big names in Mayo basketball and it was good to get something different and fresh.

"I think there is because the way teams set up defensively, you have to be a little bit more creative in terms of your spacing and then in terms of a defensive side a lot of scope there in terms of individual and team it is something I would have had from my own basketball and how I play as a defender in my defensive skills, Kerry had someone in, Dublin obviously had too, I think you can see a cross over and it makes sense for me."

The little things you miss

As for what he has missed outside of football during these trying times - O'Shea said he believed it was the same as everyone else - the little things in life: "The same as everybody, the little bit of freedom. I am lucky I live in the middle of Castlebar town, I can walk to anything now within 5km, but it is pretty much the freedom to get into the car and go somewhere. That's what I miss.

"But I'm lucky, I have been busy with work, and our work was deemed essential. So I am busier than ever and am lucky from that standpoint. It has been a bit weird - not being able to see the family or drive out to the home house to say hello; it is a bit strange also talking through the window, but I am also studying (Diploma in Leadership ), so I am busy with that and am lucky I have had something to occupy me."

O’Shea’s episode of The Toughest Trade is set to air on Monday, June 8. Meanwhile, Episode One, airing on June 1, will see Tipp hurler Brendan Maher swap roles with former England cricketer Steve Harmison. The final two episodes will feature Donegal’s Michael Murphy and Wexford’s Lee Chin, airing on June 15 and 22, respectively.


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