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Decider feels like destiny to O'Shea

LIFE is a rollercoaster ... or so it has been for Aidan O'Shea in 2012. At one point he was stuck to the ground - literally - in Tralee, unable to move.

But on Sunday he will be soaring through the northside stratosphere, relishing his first All-Ireland senior final and a ground that he loves.

Mayo may be 11/5 underdogs, but their midfield duo is certainly not coming in under the radar against Donegal. Barry Moran and O'Shea are both huge men with the towering form to match.

But both have also been blighted by serious injury - in Moran's case, a litany of different setbacks that have wreaked havoc with his career development until this season. O'Shea's problem has been more specific, and recent.

"Rectus sheath or osteitis pubis or inflammation of the pubic bone," the man himself obligingly explains.

If that sounds like a medical mouthful, its impact on Mayo's championship hopes could have been devastating.

Matters reached a head during their final regulation league outing in Kerry. A week earlier, O'Shea had been the Herald's man of the match during their spectacular 12-point victory romp against Dublin. For a player who had carried some extra poundage during his first coming as a precocious teen straight out of minor, he looked in pristine shape.

But? "It was something I'd had for about a year, to be honest. I looked in great condition (during the league) but behind it all I was struggling," he now admits.

"There was a day in Kerry - after the league game in Tralee - when I actually had to ask Barry (Moran) to lift me off the ground. I couldn't get up and I had to make a decision and, even if it meant taking out a year, I had to get it right.



Worried

"It was a tough 15 weeks but I've come back and it's been great. I know friends of mine -- Tom Parsons has been out for well over a year with this injury, and I was worried that I'd miss the year."

There was the option of surgery Stateside, but it was expensive and came with no guarantees. Instead, O'Shea's rehab entailed ice baths, cryotherapy chambers, working on running mechanics, and rest - lots of it.

"First of all I had to take the decision to tell James (Horan) I wasn't going to be able to play in the league semi-final against Kerry. That was difficult and so was watching the lads playing against Kerry and Cork," admits the 22-year-old DIT student.

"There were setbacks. Being honest, I was trying to make the Leitrim game and I trained the Friday night before, but it was probably asking a bit much.

"I was going well before the Sligo game, but it probably was the right decision to withhold me and bring me in when James did. Once I got to the stage where I knew I could get over it, I always knew I'd make an impact."

So it has transpired. O'Shea's second-half cameo was instrumental in shifting that low-scoring Connacht final in Mayo's direction. Since then, first against Down and then Dublin, his influence has grown in tandem with his match sharpness.

Clearly, self-belief is not lacking in the Breaffy powerhouse. "Since I was a young fella I've always expected to be where I am right now," he declares, matter-of-factly. "If you don't have that mentality you're going the wrong way."

That conviction was copper-fastened by Horan's hotseat elevation two years ago. When did he sense this reign would be different? "The very first day I met him," he replies.

"I didn't know James on a personal level even though we live in the same parish, but from the moment I met him I knew there was something different about him. He isn't here just to tick a box and say he managed Mayo; he's here to win."

As he talks, it's obvious that O'Shea belongs to a newer breed of Mayo footballer who isn't hung up on past failures.

"I've had some of my best days in Croke Park. I enjoy going up and the whole occasion.

"I take it all in and think it's great. The more often I get to play there, the better," he declares.



Planning

"If we win the next day people will say, 'Ah, they were bound to win one eventually'.

"You're not going to get the credit anyway, so it doesn't really make a difference to us. We're just planning as we always have.

"This is game five and we're not thinking about '06 or '04; this is Mayo 2012. We've planned to be here.

"We were back training the next day after the Dublin game - because we were planning to be doing a pool session on the Monday and to be back at training on the Tuesday."

Steady on, did he just say game five?

"It's not the All Ireland. It's just game five. Four was Dublin and we'd always planned to be at game five," he confirms.

Our own prediction? If O'Shea and Mayo do manage to beat the 'game five' odds, they'll get all the credit in the world.


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