O'Connor has faith Mayo can bounce back from despair of final defeat
CILLIAN O'CONNOR sighs at the memory.
From the flawless economy of the opening 20 minutes against Dublin in the semi-final to the stillborn All-Ireland final, Mayo's form fluctuated at the crucial stage of last season; 2012 leaves behind it both regret and hope.
"Ultimately it was a disappointing year," O'Connor said. "But we made huge strides too. We'll take confidence from a couple of the performances.
"We've had a good few challenges and a couple of setbacks but we've always bounced back.
"In 2010 losing to Sligo and Longford was a big blow, but so many of that team bounced back.
"In 2011, going back to Ruislip in London, that was a dark day and we could have dropped our heads for the rest of the year. But we've a lot of older guys on the panel like Andy (Moran) and Alan (Dillon) and they made sure they pulled us back."
Moran is facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines with his knee injury, while O'Connor could miss some of the early part of Mayo's league campaign with a shoulder injury. Despite winning Young Footballer of the Year for two seasons running, he believes he faces an uphill task to reclaim his place on the team.
"You saw this year a couple of forwards came in. They got a jersey in January in the FBD League and didn't lose it all year, the likes of Michael Conroy.
"It's worrying as well to think that there's a couple of corner-forwards who will stake a claim.
"That's what you want, though. The competition is great."
Ballintubber man O'Connor suffered a dislocated shoulder while in club league action against Westport just a week after the All-Ireland final and didn't play as his side failed in their bid for three Mayo SFC titles in a row.
"That was the hardest thing I've done in a long time, watch the lads play," he said. "They got over Crossmolina thankfully in the semi-final but Ballaghaderreen proved too strong in the final.
"It could be worse, though. It could be a long-term injury. At least I'll be back at some stage in the new year.
"I'll go back into full contact in mid-January and if there's no setbacks, maybe I'll play at the start or middle of February."