Wednesday 23 August 2017

Comment - Aidan O'Shea taking a selfie after a challenge match will not alter Mayo's chances for Sam

2 May 2017; Born to Breaffy, bred for Mayo, Aidan OShea is pictured at AIBs Club Fuels County launch of the GAA All-Ireland Football Championship. AIB is proud to be a partner of the GAA for 25 years and backing both Club and County for a third consecutive year. For exclusive content and behind the scenes action throughout the season follow on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and AIB.ie/GAA. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
2 May 2017; Born to Breaffy, bred for Mayo, Aidan OShea is pictured at AIBs Club Fuels County launch of the GAA All-Ireland Football Championship. AIB is proud to be a partner of the GAA for 25 years and backing both Club and County for a third consecutive year. For exclusive content and behind the scenes action throughout the season follow on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and AIB.ie/GAA. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Jack O'Toole

Former Meath forward and two-time All-Ireland winner Bernard Flynn said that he was amazed at Mayo forward Aidan O'Shea taking selfies with fans after a recent challenge match between the the westerners and Meath earlier this month.

Flynn was speaking to the RTE GAA podcast this week when he said that he had witnessed O'Shea taking photographs and signing autographs with fans while the rest of his teammates were huddled in the background.

"Meath played Mayo in a challenge game in Mullingar the week before last," said Flynn.

"At the very end of the match the Mayo players got round in a circle and O’Shea had finished the match with the 15 that had finished. There were 15, 20 kids around and he signed autographs.

"The team was in a circle ten yards away. No one asked him to leave what he was doing. Every other player was in a circle in a huddle talking; he was left outside the ring and allowed do what he wanted.

"He decided then after a while to come into the ring when all the photographs were finished, which I found absolutely incredible. They did a warmdown and the same thing happened.

"The whole team did a warmdown; ten yards away he proceeded to have photos and selfies and whatnot and he was allowed to do his own thing.

"I stood back in amazement with a few friends of mine who watched and a certain individual who was close to the Meath team said, ‘that’s exactly why Aidan O’Shea plays the way he does’. 

"It was incredible to see what happened."

If Flynn and company were amazed at O'Shea taking photographs and selfies with a few fans.. after a challenge match.. in Mullingar.. in early May.. four months before the games where Mayo will really be judged.. I'd love to see how they would have reacted if they had seen six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan smoking a cigar in the Washington Bullets dressing room right before Jordan's Chicago Bulls were due to take on Washington in the opening round of the 1997 NBA play-offs.

According to former Washington forward Chris Webber, Jordan walked right into the Bullets dressing room, away from his teammates, smoking a lit cigar asking Washington's players 'who's going to guard me tonight?'

Chicago win the series 3-0.

Or how would Flynn and his friends react when Cristiano Ronaldo, the four-time Ballon d'Or winner, walks back to the haflway line in a strop while the rest of his Real Madrid teammates run to the corner flag in celebration?

What do they think when they see Ronaldo leap into the air before thrusting his hands to his side, and turning his back to the crowd so that they can all bear witness to his name and his greatness after every goal he scores.

Big players have big egos, but just because Aidan O'Shea is asked to take a couple of photos after a challenge match, in early May, against a Meath team that hasn't come within a country mile of challenging for an All-Ireland in over a decade, does not mean that he's any less committed to Mayo's Sam Maguire cause than any other player on the Mayo panel.

O'Shea's commitment was a point of contention with Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly when the former Mayo managers blocked the 26-year-old from partaking in AIB's The Toughest series last year, with Connelly and Holmes both fearing that it would become a distraction for Mayo's championship aspirations.

In an interview with Martin Breheny in December, Holmes said: "I contacted the producer of the programme and asked: 'Why are you ringing Mayo footballers? Why aren't you calling on Kerry or Dublin players - they're the ones with All-Ireland medals'.

"He said they were looking for a particular type of character. I asked him not to contact Mayo players as our season had started and winning games was all that mattered to us.

"Aidan rang me later on and complained over what had happened. I explained to him that he would be in a lot more demand if he had an All-Ireland medal and that all his efforts should be focused on that goal."

Focusing all your efforts on a singular goal has mixed results and it's not for everyone. It may work for individual athletes like Conor McGregor in individual sports like MMA, but in team sports, the sole focus approach can be detrimental, at least that's the view held by three-time World Rugby Player of the Year Dan Carter.

Carter, and a selection of his New Zealand teammates, were pulled from their respective club sides in the 2007 Super Rugby season to focus solely on preparing for the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France, a competition which the All Blacks had not won in 20 years. Sound familiar tortured Mayo fans?

Carter later revealed in his 2015 autobiography that he had given up alcohol in the lead up to the tournament, and that he placed his undivided attention on rugby, which he ultimately regretted as he said the singular focus on rugby made him feel like a robot, and that it started to affect his performance. New Zealand lost in the quarter-final stages to France.

The singular focus approach, the approach shared by Holmes and Connelly, had failed, as it did for Mayo last October.

But Mayo's loss to Dublin was not because they placed undivided focus on the All-Ireland, Dublin had better squad depth with Cormac Costello and Bernard Brogan coming off the bench to kick four points for the Dubs when the game was on the line.

O'Shea was sub-par across both finals, and whether he did or he didn't partake in The Toughest , it was not going to make a difference in Mayo winning or losing when it mattered most in September and in last year's case October.

Just as taking selfies in May won't impact on whether Mayo are lifting the Sam Maguire in September, you either have it when the game matters or you don't, and selfies and off-season television appearances won't make a difference when those questions are being asked.

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