'Every game is like an All-Ireland final, we can't lose' - Parsons
Published 28/07/2016 | 02:30
The Mayo dressing-room after their shock Connacht semi-final defeat to Galway was not a nice place to be for Tom Parsons and his team-mates but they've gotten back on the horse.
Parsons has been nursing a hamstring injury picked up when Stephen Rochford ramped up the tempo in training but could make a return against Westmeath on Saturday as they look to book a quarter-final place.
After five Connacht titles in a row a run through the qualifiers certainly hasn't been a conventional journey back to Croke Park but they're back where they want to be.
Their championship life hangs on the line in every game but they've reacted well after a stuttering 35 minutes against Fermanagh and looked sharp against Kildare.
The pressure has been something Parsons believes they have embraced. "We're in a situation now where every game that we play is essentially an All-Ireland final. We can't lose," he said.
"So week in, week out there are big games and it's been really intensive since the Galway game. They beat us on merit, we have had to improve on where we fell down against Galway. In that situation you're blessed with a second chance.
"In years gone by when we have got knocked out in the All-Ireland series, there was no second chances. So as a group we recognised that we had this chance to rectify the poor performance."
The qualifiers have their "positives and negatives" with Parsons feeling the momentum is offset by fatigue and he's wary of the challenge presented by a "championship team" like Westmeath, who will play in Division 4 next year.
For a man deemed surplus to requirements by James Horan in 2011 before being drafted back by the same man in 2014, Parsons has had to change with the times, believing versatility is the key to his return.
Modern football requires players to excel in a variety of roles at a variety of times in a variety of games and the Charlestown midfielder rubbished Peter Canavan's belief that star man Aidan O'Shea has suffered from a constant change of positions.
"I don't think Aidan's position has been messed around. It was quite clear against Kildare that our full-back went off injured and Kildare moved (Kevin) Feely and (Tommy) Moolick intermittently into the full-forward line," he said.
"It was an obvious decision and choice to move a big guy like Aidan O'Shea to full-back and we don't know what Westmeath bring the next day and decisions will need to be made on the day.
"If you look at Keith Higgins, he's an All-Star corner-back playing in the half-forward line; equally the next day he could be in the full-forward line, half-forward line, half-back line or full-back line. With the modern game now players need to be adaptable
"In my early years the key attribute that you had to have as a midfielder was winning primary possession and there are a lot of games now in the championship where you see there are very few long kick-outs.
"So as a midfielder I've had to adapt to compete without getting to show and highlight my key attribute in winning ball around the middle of the field and I've had to improve my game in linking defence and attack in general play to merit my position in this team."