It is sometimes hard to remember that Cillian O'Connor is only in his second year out of minor football. Last years national young footballer of the year, stepped up in front of the Hill on Sunday and slotted free's and 45's over the bar like he was just out practicing shooting by himself in his native Ballintubber. Right from the off, O'Connor showed no sign of nerves effecting him at all when he stood up to take his first effort at a 45 early on. “Yeah, they’re not ideal, they’re not as easy as 14 yard frees but if you don’t love kicking ‘45s into the Hill on a sunny day in Croker, you’re playing the wrong game. I was excited, I couldn’t wait to get out there, I suppose they were two difficult ones but you have to want to take them and thank God they went over. I suppose they set me up then for the rest of the game, gave me a bit of confidence”
That confidence carried through to the nail biting finish, where with it all on the line, he managed to compose himself and kick Mayo's first point in 20 minutes to keep the Dubs at least three points behind. ““Yeah, I didn’t realise it was as late in the game as it was. I suppose when you’re in the middle of it you don’t really think about how long is left or what the score is so I just didn’t really think about it, I just focused on the kick. Thankfully it went over, on another day it could have went wide and I could have been the villain but thank God it went over.”
Another one of Mayo's younger contingent, but who seems like a veteran he seems to have been around that long, to leave it all out on the field was Aidan O'Shea. The Breaffy man was delighted with the battling qualities the team showed when it came to the crunch. “I think we just said in there that everything that could possibly go wrong for us did go wrong. Boyler (Colm Boyle ) got sick this morning, had to make a change there. Keego (Lee Keegan ) dislocated his finger like Michael Rice in the first half, we had positional changes, we had men in with blood injuries. I think we showed great character to come out of that as well. Donie (Vaughan ) had to go back in full-back, Shaney McHale came on for his first championship appearance for Mayo at centre-back, not his natural position … we just dug out the result.”
He also said that he didn't realise that Mayo were as far ahead at half time as they were until Andy Moran told him in the dressing room. “To be honest I came in at half-time and didn’t realise. I thought we were up by three points and Andy comes in and says we’re up by six. I said ‘what’? I thought we were only up by three to be honest, I wasn’t even paying attention to the scoreboard.” He did give credit for the way that Dublin fought back but was confident that Mayo would be able to hold out till the end. “ We did start leaking water for a fifteen minute period but we held out and that was the main thing. Boys were pushed around to an awful lot of places, they [Dublin] were bound to have a purple patch, we dominated from start up to that point so they were bound to have a purple patch.” He had to watch the final couple of minutes from the sideline after he was replaced by elder brother Seamus, who came on and kicked the final vital point at the end. “Oh it was difficult. I was just hoping they wouldn’t get a goal or anything. I was confident enough the boys would see it out.” And as for his brothers point, he was just happy to see him back on the field after injury. “Yeah, nice to see him back and get a point, one for the house anyway.” As for the final, O'Shea knows that Donegal will be tough, but they are beatable. “There’s nothing easy about Donegal but, yeah, two teams who were very similar in the last couple of years. They’ve got their stuff together, are very organised, they’re a very good team. I don’t think they’re unbeatable but it is going to be a seriously tough challenge.