With just a week to go before Mayo head into the All Ireland quarter-final in Croke Park their opponents are still unknown until this weekend's round of action in the qualifiers is completed on Saturday evening. Speaking ahead of the game, joint Mayo manager Noel Connelly said he hoped that Aidan O'Shea gets "fair play" from officials in the upcoming contest and they do award him frees when he is fouled and not let the infractions slide by just because of his size.
Connelly said: "We've no doubt he'll be a targeted man, and all we can ask off officials is that he is given fair play both off the ball and on the ball, I've said it before he's a big guy and he attracts a lot of attention, in other games the attention he gets warrants a free, whereas referees see that because he's a big guy, that he can take more of this, and say let's see can he take more before he gets a free."
The former Mayo captain also praised the effort that O'Shea has put into making sure he is in top condition for action, saying: "To be fair to him, he's a guy who has really looked after himself on and off the field in terms of diet and training regime, he's a really positive lad who works really, really, hard at training." As for adapting to his role at full-forward it has been a learning curve for all but he is learning all the time that it is not just power that is needed in the position, Connelly added, saying: "He has worked on it and we have worked on it and to be fair he has seen the benefits of maybe receiving the ball and throwing it off and getting it back that he finds himself in more open space. He's a team player, but he hasn't been playing that long in that position."
Not ideal preparation so soon out
As for facing into a last eight clash and still not knowing who they will be facing a week out, Connelly said it was not the ideal preparation at all for a contest of this magnitude when there are no more second chances. "I think, ideally this weekend gone should have been the last qualifier game, I don't know what the reason is, we'd be disappointed that we didn't know two weeks before the game who you will be playing. It's the same for us and for whatever teams comes through, we have to focus on it and all we can do at the moment is train and focus as best we can on all three scenarios that come up, and then on Sunday focus on one."
Plenty to work on after big win
The man who led Mayo on to the field in both the 1996 and 1997 All Ireland finals expects to be picking from a full deck for the game next Saturday, with no major injury concerns, with Seamus O'Shea and Andy Moran both departing the Connacht final win as precautionary measures, but both are fully fit and ready to go again. As for what they have worked on since the Connacht final, it is all about making sure that the concentration levels are at 100 per cent for the big day. He said: "The concentration levels have to be right for the full 70 minutes and against the better teams you won't get away with that [conceding 2-11 against Sligo in the Connacht final], that's the point we kept harping on about over the weekend, that against the better teams we would have been punished dearly for it."