Sunday 19 February 2017

Aidan O'Shea seeks positive changes in Mayo's defensive strategy in 2016

Michael Verney

Published 27/01/2016 | 02:30

Mayo's Aidan O'Shea in action. Picture: Sportsfile
Mayo's Aidan O'Shea in action. Picture: Sportsfile

At crucial times in recent seasons the Mayo defence has creaked under pressure and as with the country's flooding problem, Aidan O'Shea believes the solution is to erect barriers.

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Mayo's wait for Sam Maguire continued following their late semi-final capitulation against Dublin, yielding three goals in 15 minutes; they responded by ousting joint-managers Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly.

Speaking at the launch of AIB's 'The Toughest Trade', which sees O'Shea swap Gaelic football for American football for a week next month, the Breaffy attacker believes the secret to success is simple: extra emphasis on minding the house.

"It's fairly straightforward. When we've lost we've conceded bad goals in the last couple of years and we need to tighten up at the back. We need to manage our games better," the 25-year-old said.

"We play the same way throughout and I don't think other teams do that. We need to be a little more game smart. We're doing a lot of very good things but there are certain situations where we need to hold the fort."

With so many players injured and away on club duty, training has been "a bit disjointed" under new boss Stephen Rochford, but O'Shea expects positive changes in their defensive strategy this season.

Return

And having returned to full training just last week, the two-time All-Star could be thrown into action on Sunday in their League opener against Cork. Many rookies will get the chance to impress, including younger brother Conor.

"Cillian O'Connor is our top marksman and we'd like to have him but it's not just Cillian that's missing. Only two of last year's starting six will be starting at the weekend, I'd say, and there's a great opportunity there for lads," he said.

"There's a couple of guys like Conor Loftus, Evan Regan and Conor coming to the time where they're looking to make an impression. He's had bad winters with injuries but hopefully he'll get game-time and go well."

O'Shea's job as a production planner with a pharmaceutical company offers him the luxury of staying close to home but the circumstances of others, like his older brother Seamus, aren't as convenient and he understands why many inter-county players opt out.

"I know from Seamie and a few others, it's very difficult what they do. I don't know if I'd be able to do it, travelling up and down the country to train. I don't know how they do it," O'Shea admitted.

"Seamie has probably contemplated it (taking a year out)over the last few winters and it's not that he doesn't want to commit to it, but the fact that he has to do a six-hour commute twice a week on top of a job and gym."

If the defensive walls are put in place, O'Shea can prosper at the other end and who knows, Mayo may finally bridge a 65-year gap.

Irish Independent

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