McDonald adding new elements to the Mayo mix

GAA: All Ireland Senior Football Championship Semi-Final

Showing the way: Ciaran McDonald's influence on Mayo this term has been a very positive one. Photo: Sportsfile.

Showing the way: Ciaran McDonald's influence on Mayo this term has been a very positive one. Photo: Sportsfile.

James Horan has guided Mayo to the All Ireland semi-final stage again - it will be the counties ninth appearance in the final four since 2012.

In that run they have won four semi-finals in 2012, 2013, 2016 and 2017 and lost two of those after replays in 2014 and 2015 and on Sunday they will be looking to make it win number five at the final four stage of the competition.

Horan has crafted together successful teams with a number of players such as Cillian O'Connor, Lee Keegan, Aidan O'Shea, Kevin McLoughlin and David Clarke all mainstays of most of those runs.

There have been a number of guys who have come and gone from teams in that run and also in the backroom teams over the years. The announcement that Ciaran McDonald was joining the backroom team of Horan's set up - almost exactly a year ago was one that caught the eye when it was announced - with the Crossmolina man one of the most celebrated players to ever come out of the county.

The influence that McDonald has had on the team this year has been one that many have been interested to see - those of us lucky enough to be able to attend games since the reemergence of the inter-county games will have noticed All Ireland club winner, being a constant presence making his way up and down from his seat to the sideline to pass on what he is seeing happening on the field to Horan and his fellow coach James Burke.

As for what Horan himself sees that McDonald has brought to the set up - he was fulsome in his praise for his former teammate when speaking to the media last week.

"Firstly he’s a brilliant coach and has worked with the development squads in Mayo for a while now and himself and James Burke work particularly well together."

Both men have very similar views on the way the game should be played Horan says and he gives other key insights into what could be tried to make it better he added.

"Ciaran has a really interesting take on the game and we’d be very aligned on what are the key things that are needed for Gaelic at a high level so we’d be definitely aligned there.

"But he’d have some very good ideas on where we can make further gains and what we can do so any and all ideas are welcome and we’ll try things and some of them work and some of them don’t but we’ll definitely keep trying things to try and get better and better."

McDonald's fellow clubman Conor Loftus grew up watching the great Crossmolina team that McDonald was a part of close up and that left a lasting influence on him as a young player he told us.

"That was a great Crossmolina team to watch when I was growing up so there is a lot them that you pick up bits and pieces off. Watching the likes of him an even still playing with Peader (Gardiner ), watching Joe Keane play and all these guys. A lot of them are still around the club at the minute and it is great for me to locally have had fellas like that to look up to as I grew up."

Having his influence on the current Mayo set up is something that Loftus has relished being part of and picking up bits and pieces from him.

"From an offensive point of view you are just picking up little bits and pieces up off him all the team, he is constantly communicating with you. He is seeing I suppose the game different to the way most people see it - he is a step or two ahead of everybody else so you are kinda trying to pick up little bits and pieces off him.

"Like playing off the shoulder, looking further up the pitch as opposed to giving a short hand pass right beside you, little bits and pieces like that so it is great have him around the place."

McDonald was one of the great expressionists on the field as a player and he has brought that bid of freedom to get players to express themselves as well as they can too Loftus added.

"Yah, it is something that we would kinda speak about is playing with a bit of freedom and that you are going out there and using the skill set that you have so Mac has deffintley helped bring that in as well, no more than James (Horan ) and Burkie (James ) too they are all kind of pushing us to play to the max of our skill set and play with that freedom that you can go out an express yourself when you are playing football."


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