Sport Gaelic Football

Sunday 21 September 2014

O'Connor magic brings end to Mayo marquee forward debate – Hennelly

Published 24/07/2014 | 02:30

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Mayo goalkeeper Rob Hennelly believes that with the county having come through a more testing provincial campaign than last year they are better prepared for the All-Ireland series. Photo: Ray Ryan / SPORTSFILE
Mayo goalkeeper Rob Hennelly believes that with the county having come through a more testing provincial campaign than last year they are better prepared for the All-Ireland series. Photo: Ray Ryan / SPORTSFILE

Mayo goalkeeper Rob Hennelly insists the debate surrounding whether or not the county boast a top-class forward is no longer up for discussion after Cillian O'Connor's displays so far in the championship this year.

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The double Young Player of the Year winner has been hit with serious injuries at crucial times in the last two seasons but he has been superb so far this term, hitting 0-8 in the Connacht final win over Galway.

"If Cillian O'Connor isn't classed as a marquee forward at this stage, I don't know who is," said the Mayo goalkeeper, responding to suggestions that a lack of a cutting edge up front had held the county back in recent years.

"He's been the top scorer in the championship the past couple of years and he's two years younger than me.

"Then you have the likes of Andy Moran, Kevin McLoughlin, Alan Dillon and Jason Doherty. So that issue is put to bed or should be put to bed. I have to try and stop shots from them as well so I know all about it."

SUCCESSIVE

Mayo collected their fourth successive Connacht title this summer, something the county last managed in 1951 when they won their most recent All-Ireland.

And having come through a more testing provincial campaign than last year when Mayo won their matches by an average of 15 points, Hennelly believes they are better prepared for the All-Ireland series.

James Horan's men are back in action on Sunday week and will discover who they'll face this weekend when Cork and Sligo and Galway and Tipperary face off in Tullamore on Saturday evening.

"We'd know ourselves that we underperformed in both games in many areas in Connacht.

"It's fine to see it as long as we learn from it and we've been applying the, I won't call it shortcomings, but lessons from the two games.

"When you see things like that in matches you learn more from them rather than finding out about them in Croke Park.

"As a bunch, I think the most important thing for us this year was that we didn't go in with the same hand and we definitely haven't.

"We've added players to the squad and lads who were peripheral players last year are big players for us potentially this year.

"We have Jason Doherty and Jason Gibbons and we've got Keith Higgins, who went back to corner-back, Chris Barrett is there as well, so we're an extremely positive bunch and we're just excited to be back.

"The hardest thing was starting again at first but now we're back in Croke Park."

Irish Independent

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