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O'Shea confident new generation can shine

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Mayo lost that thrilling 2008 minor saga -- the replay attracted over 15,000 -- but the Breaffy man epitomises the new generation who seem unencumbered by Mayo's football past.

Mayo lost that thrilling 2008 minor saga -- the replay attracted over 15,000 -- but the Breaffy man epitomises the new generation who seem unencumbered by Mayo's football past.

Mayo lost that thrilling 2008 minor saga -- the replay attracted over 15,000 -- but the Breaffy man epitomises the new generation who seem unencumbered by Mayo's football past.

TO say that Aidan O'Shea doesn't lack confidence is an extreme understatement. He was Man of the Match in the drawn 2008 All-Ireland minor final against a star-studded Tyrone team, just two days after getting plaster off a broken hand.

The following summer he wrote a hoot of a Leaving Cert diary for a national newspaper that included as much about his football exploits as the actual exam papers.

When he went on an AFL trial to the Western Bulldogs later that winter, his young Aussie team-mates warned him not to be scoffing sausage rolls because of impending skinfold tests. O'Shea told them "sure you'll burn it off tomorrow, pass me that eclair behind you!"

But even the towering 22-year-old's laid-back confidence was deflated this year when he feared his season was over. He'd been plagued since last year by the painful groin condition osteitis pubis and, in the final league game against Kerry, he went to ground in Tralee and couldn't get up.

"I had to literally say to Barry (Moran) 'lift me up here quick!'. It was a long bus journey home from Kerry," he said. "It was that severe that it was affecting my day-to-day life and I had to make a decision on my own future, so I sent James (Horan) an email the next day to say, 'look, I'm not playing if we get to the semi-final'."

The DIT student jokes that the complete rest that was diagnosed meant he got to "chill out by the pool" at the team's subsequent training camp in Portugal.

But he also admitted: "It was probably the hardest thing I've had to do as a footballer because you're missing a big occasion and I don't like missing games."

Mayo lost that thrilling 2008 minor saga -- the replay attracted over 15,000 -- but the Breaffy man epitomises the new generation who seem unencumbered by Mayo's football past.

Ask him if he was frustrated when sited at full-forward and he guffaws: "Oh I was frustrated alright but only when I wasn't playing well! When I was playing well it was great!

"The first year it was easy playing there when no one knew anything about you but I'm not really a full-forward," he said. "I can do a job there but I'm more comfortable out in the middle where I can influence the game a lot more.

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"I like the big occasions. If you don't enjoy playing at Croke Park in front of 80,000 people then you're in the wrong sport. I've watched 10 or 12 All-Ireland finals knowing I'd be there one day myself. And I'd be quite confident that I'll be there a few more times before I finish as well."

If anyone else was so candid you'd fear they were cruising for a bruising but O'Shea has backed that up on the pitch this summer, bouncing back from a full 15-week lay-off to become a remarkably sharp cog in Mayo's midfield engine.

His influence off the bench against Sligo was immense, the Down game was only his first 2012 championship start and his display against Dublin was sensational. Yet he counts himself lucky. "Ger Cafferkey and Chris Barrett had it (the same injury) before me and Tom Parsons, who's a good buddy of mine, has had it for the last 18 months so that's how severe it can get."

So apart from his own personal confidence, where has the team's strong conviction come from? O'Shea points to Mayo's recent underage record for a start.

"When you break it down, seven of the team who beat Dublin won an U-21 in 2006 and there were only three or four lads who played in the 2006 (senior final). The boys will gain strength from these things.

"We've gained strength from the start of the year because we'd been putting in so much strength and conditioning work.

"We did what we said we'd do at the start of the year: we won the FBD, we said we'd make the league play-offs and we did that and then we won the Connacht championship, the first ones to do that back-to-back in nearly 10 years. That's where we gained the strength from, all those little victories."


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