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Aidan O'Shea: 'Dubs were the team we let get away'

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Aidan O'Shea, Mayo

Aidan O'Shea, Mayo

Aidan O'Shea and Aidan Walsh

Aidan O'Shea and Aidan Walsh

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Aidan O'Shea, Mayo

AIDAN O'SHEA doesn't hesitate when asked. The one big game that got away from Mayo during the James Horan era, the one he'd love a chance to replay again in some parallel 'if only' universe, is the 2013 All-Ireland final against Dublin.

Not the previous year's All-Ireland decider against Donegal - which Horan himself opted for when the same question was posed on the recent All Stars tour to Boston.

And not Kerry last August either: neither the drawn semi-final when 14-man Mayo coughed up a five-point lead in the dying minutes ... nor the roller coaster replay in Limerick when the surrender of an early seven-point advantage, a cruel clash of heads between O'Shea and teammate Cillian O'Connor, not to mention some hugely controversial refereeing calls, all conspired against Mayo.

No, for the Breaffy powerhouse, it's got to be Dublin. Twice in the first half they led by three points and it should have been more. Yet at half-time, the cushion was just one.

"Realistically, we kicked them off the pitch for the first 25 minutes," recalls O'Shea, speaking at yesterday's unveiling of results from the ESB 'EnergyFit' programme.

"I talked to Dublin backroom team members after that game and they were probably at a loss what to do, we were playing so well - but we couldn't kick the ball over the bar.

"Cluxton kicks the ball over the sideline, we have a line ball, we're in possession, and we kick the ball away.

"Paul Flynn kicks the ball in and Bernard Brogan has a goal, so that changes the game. Bernard hadn't touched the ball up to that point and it changes the game going into half-time and that was the problem.

"The second goal they got - myself and Séamie (O'Shea, his brother) are caught, we get attracted to the ball, and Denis Bastick breaks through. So I think we put ourselves in a great position to win that game and at key moments we lost concentration."

In all this he spies a lesson for Mayo as they embark on a new era under the joint management of Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes.

"If Donegal were in the position we had put ourselves in that game, I don't think they would have lost," he surmises.

"The problem is, at the moment when we put ourselves six or seven points up in games, which we have done, it's still not seen as a dead game for the opposition. That can be turned around in too short a period.

"You look at Donegal, if they go six or seven points up the game is over."

It begs the question: should Mayo adopt a less gung-ho approach?

"It might be something we have to address," O'Shea accepts. We are very attack-conscious; it does suit our game to play that way. We have some massive runners from our half-back line, even corner-back with Keith (Higgins). It is probably something that when get into those positions, that we not taper ourselves completely but make sure we don't lose a seven-point lead inside 10 minutes."

He goes on: "Even in games we've won, like the Cork game (last August), after my goal we conceded a goal straight away and put ourselves under pressure. And before Donncha O'Connor's goal, we were up by maybe five or six points at the time.

"The Kerry game in Croke Park, we were up by five or six and let it slip. So, absolutely, you can't be putting yourselves in these positions and expect to play 100 miles-an-hour football - because if we're playing all-out attack all the time, you're going to be leaving gaps at the back and we've been exploited too many times."

THREE-IN-A-ROW

While it's early days for Mayo's new management duo, they've already appointed Keith Higgins, their three-in-a-row All Star, as captain.

"Mayo's best footballer of all time, in my opinion," is O'Shea's unambiguous verdict. "He probably changed his attitude under Horan as well. He's probably taking football more seriously than he ever has. It has become very player-driven in Mayo and his job is probably easier because he has a lot of good lads around him."

Player-driven. Still driven for Sam.


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