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Mayo's Cillian O'Connor: Week after losing to Kerry was the lowest I ever felt

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Cillian O'Connor shoots to score his first goal from the penalty spot in the All Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final Replay

Cillian O'Connor shoots to score his first goal from the penalty spot in the All Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final Replay

Mayo footballer Cillian O'Connor

Mayo footballer Cillian O'Connor

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Cillian O'Connor shoots to score his first goal from the penalty spot in the All Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final Replay

CILLIAN O'CONNOR was in the pits of despair for the week that followed Mayo's latest traumatic All-Ireland exit. He had never felt lower.

But there's a certain resilience about Mayo footballers, a persistent quality hewn from years of absorbing All-Ireland trauma and then going bald-headed for the big prize once another year dawns.

This helps to explains why a group that came so close during James Horan's four-year tenure is now relishing the prospect of life under Mayo's new managerial double act, Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes.

"We were in the pits the week after the game," admitted O'Connor, recalling that roller coaster semi-final replay against Kerry. "You don't want to talk to anyone or think about it."

CRAZY

It had been a crazy contest on so many levels - for no one more so than this year's championship top-scorer. He scored two early goals, one a penalty, and finished with 2-5. He was left bloodied after a freak clash of heads with teammate Aidan O'Shea, missing the first five minutes of the second half ... but came back on to land two more points from play. Then, at the end of extra-time, came the double-whammy of three-point defeat and a red card for an uncharacteristic kick at Killian Young.

Time, though, is a great healer. In the three months since then, O'Connor has helped Ballintubber to win a county title and reach a Connacht club final (losing to Corofin); he has also won a maiden All Star and was in reflective mood this week while touring with the GAA/GPA football All Stars in Boston.

"The week after the game - I said it at the time - was probably the lowest I ever felt," he recounted.

"But after a couple of weeks again, it's strange ... you think you need eight weeks off and after two or three, you're actually itching to go again."

The former Young Footballer of the Year counts himself lucky that he could "thrust myself back into the club. We were getting ready for the county semi-final so, while I wanted to lock myself away, I had no choice, I had to face the world and get on with it.

"It was good to have a different focus and I felt sorry for the boys who were out of the championship and had a long winter."

The managerial wheel may have turned but he expects all of this year's panel to recommit for 2015, including his long-serving Ballintubber colleague, Alan Dillon.

"Now he hasn't come out and said either way, but I would expect him to continue," O'Connor surmised. "The condition he keeps himself in and the way he lives his life would mean that another season would be no problem for him, physically anyway.

ASSET

"I'd expect him to return. I hope he does," his clubmate stressed, "because he's a massive asset to have around the place."

There will be change, though. "We've a decent crop of 18 and 19-year-olds coming through, and I know some of them and they're extremely hungry and eager to start taking some of our positions - which is a brilliant thing," he enthused.

"But, no matter how we'll you've done in previous years or how far you've got, it's back to square one again - it's back to FBD League.

"It's still a long way away from Croke Park, so it's all about the work we do in the next few months now."


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