Mayo's Aidan O'Shea: 'We're now facing our biggest test as a group'
O’Shea dismisses complacency theory as Mayo seek Qualifier redress
Mayo have faced significant challenges before to bounce back from difficult defeats but Aidan O'Shea has acknowledged that, as a group, they won't face a more steeper gradient than what they are looking up at now after a first Connacht loss in six years on Saturday night.
Reflecting yesterday on a "difficult loss" O'Shea admitted that, like most observers, he "hadn't seen it coming" as he suffered a first ever reversal at any level to Galway.
Mayo are now facing into their first Qualifier game since defeat to Longford ended John O'Mahony's managerial reign in 2010, and Breaffy man O'Shea says they will have to "embrace it" quickly and get away from what happened at MacHale Park last Saturday night.
He dismissed any idea that Mayo had become complacent after so much success in the province and a general expectation that they would win comfortably.
"There was loose talk last week. Galway were very, very quiet," said O'Shea. "But that's not an excuse. Our preparation levels should have been good enough to win the game.
"There was nothing from a preparation point of view that you could pinpoint and say 'that was coming'.
"It just wasn't good enough. If we'd continued on and got the win, we'd have said our performance level was poor and we'd have to up it overall."
That Longford defeat is O'Shea's only involvement in a Qualifier, so it's an unfamiliar experience for him and many others to potentially face an intense period of games throughout July to realign themselves for the All-Ireland quarter-finals again.
On the 'B' side of the draw they look set for a soft introduction with their potential opponents from Wexford or Fermanagh, Down or Longford, Offaly or London or Antrim or Limerick, who all meet this weekend in the 1B Qualifiers.
"We need to seriously get ourselves together for three weeks' time because a drab performance like that, wouldn't be good enough," O'Shea acknowledged.
Inevitably the managerial heave against Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly last September has come back into the Mayo public conscience but O'Shea says it shouldn't be an issue.
"That's an easy line. I don't think it has anything to do with the loss on Saturday, we just didn't perform to a man, really, apart from probably Boyler (Colm Boyle) who played very well. We didn't perform to our own individual standards or as a collective. I'm not really too concerned with that line," he said.
"It's going to come up. It's not something I can control or the team can control. We parked that a long time ago. It's not something we're too worried about.
"What we are worried about is we're after losing a type of game that we haven't lost for a long, long time. That hurts. We need to rectify it very quickly."
Mayo have sailed close to the wind in Connacht a few times, notably against London in James Horan's first Championship game in charge in 2011 that required extra-time, Sligo in the 2012 final and against Roscommon in the 2014 semi-final.
O'Shea accepts that this defeat, and more importantly their response, could be a defining moment for a group that has pushed out the barriers in the past.
"From a player point of view, definitely it's our biggest challenge. Having not done it before (back door), it's hard to quantify it and not knowing who we're playing it's hard to focus. So it's very much on ourselves now.
"Previously we've lost in August or September and had to wait nine months or longer to get back to where we had been the previous year.
"We've a three-week window now to try to get ourselves back playing good football, enjoying our football again and get a bit of momentum. If we don't rise to it, it could be a short summer."
O'Shea reserved judgement on whether a back door journey might just be the spur Mayo needed after five successive Connacht wins but it could well be the remedy they require at this stage of their careers.
"When we were winning Connacht titles everyone was saying, 'would you not be as well off going through the back door because you're not getting much of a challenge?'," he recalled.
"I'd prefer to have won the Connacht championship but we haven't. We're going to have a couple of games in a row, hopefully, to get ourselves right.
"It's very hard to say whether it's a benefit. But it's not a benefit if we wallow in this loss and arrive at the game in three weeks' time still back in MacHale Park last Saturday."
O'Shea is also reserving judgement on Galway for now, saying: "It was only a Connacht semi-final.
"I know it's a big win for them but there's a Connacht final to play yet. We'll wait and see how the summer progresses."
Aidan O'Shea was speaking yesterday in Dublin at a Kellogs Cúl Camps cook-off challenge to promote 'Powering Play for Children'.