Sunday 4 December 2016

2013 final bears no relevance now, insists Connelly

Published 25/08/2015 | 02:30

Mayo joint manager Noel Connelly
Mayo joint manager Noel Connelly

The 2013 All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin will play little part in Mayo's preparation ahead of Sunday's rematch, joint-manager Noel Connelly has admitted.

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Connelly feels Dublin's shift in style means only 2015 games are really relevant to how Mayo might set themselves up in Sunday's eagerly anticipated All-Ireland semi-final.

"We'll be focusing on the way Dublin have changed their style of play and gone more defensive in the last year. They have learned their lesson from Donegal last year," said the former Mayo captain.

"So really you have to focus on this year's championship and the way they are playing in that, in addition to their league form," he said.

Connelly admits that he and his fellow manager Pat Holmes never set about "reinventing the wheel" when they took over from James Horan last year but they have been pleased with how some adjustments have worked, Aidan O'Shea's switch to full-forward the obvious lift.

"He's a big guy, he's in real form, he's enjoying his football there at No 14. He's a tough guy, once he gets possession, he's tough to mark. For a big guy he's very skilful, he's got both feet.

"Any full-back who picks him up has a job on the hands. We hope that his form continues and that he can carry it into a semi-final. He is one of six forwards doing well for us at the moment.

"We weren't going out to reinvent the wheel. We just thought if we could add a few younger blokes to the squad that, if they were called upon, could do a job for us.

Capability

"The likes of Patrick Durcan who has come into defence this year. Tom Parsons is doing well and Mark Ronaldson, although he didn't come on the last day, did really well in the Connacht Championship."

The current Mayo management had Parsons at U-21 level and always felt he had plenty offer.

"Over the years Tom has been away and he's been injured. We knew him from U-21 level, we knew his capability in the air.

"He's trained really hard this winter and throughout the league and championship so far. He's in the best shape of his life. We're blessed to have him playing so well for us.

"He is a big plus to have in the middle of the field."

Mayo deliberately abbreviated their heavier training at the beginning of the season after four hard years on the road and Connelly admits they were conscious that the pressure could come on.

"We probably would have got a bit of slack in papers after the Dublin result and the final game against Donegal, not winning that.

"We used the league as a breeding ground for some of the newer players that we brought in. We wanted to stay in Division 1 because that's only where we will benefit from. But at the same time we weren't too disappointed when we didn't reach the league semi-final.

"We wanted to be in full health coming into the championship and that is the way it has turned out."

"Mentally, players need to recover as much as from the physical side of it. They needed a little rest. We did train but not as hard as other counties did throughout the league and we feel they are probably benefiting from that now in the latter stages of the championship."

Fatigue

Connelly never feared that fatigue might be an issue when they took over from Horan last September.

"We looked at it and felt that even though they had four or five long years on the road, the age profile was still good," he said.

"We had worked with most of them at U-21 level for four years and knew the calibre of guy that was there. We didn't feel these guys were torn to shreds from the four years of hard work.

"We believed in them and we still believe in them. They are winners and want more success and if they want that, we can only be happy with that."

He has also been impressed with the emergence of new leaders, roles once automatically filled by Andy Moran and Alan Dillon who no longer make the team on a consistent basis.

"Alan and Andy are two huge players for us within the squad. They are very experienced, very vocal in the dressing-room and they are key and instrumental to our set-up," Connelly added.

"Andy was disappointed to lose out the last day but when called upon he always gives us 110 per cent, as does Alan.

"New leaders, you can talk about Tom Parsons the way he is leading, he's doing really well for us.

"Aido (O'Shea) is relishing his new role at full-forward, Cillian is a very sound guy as well and has a lot of experience.

"We have leaders, we are happy with the group that we have, the guys that are on the field and the leadership that they are showing."

Irish Independent

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