Tuesday 23 January 2018

Colossus Aidan O'Shea leads Mayo march into history

Mayo 6-25 Sligo2-11

Aidan O'Shea, Mayo, in action against Ross Donavan, Sligo
Aidan O'Shea, Mayo, in action against Ross Donavan, Sligo
Aidan O'Shea, Mayo, shoots to score his side's fifth goal. Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship Final, Mayo v Sligo
Lee Keegan, Mayo, celebrates after scoring his side's sixth goal
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

The big man at full forward is the oldest trick in the book for a reason. It was pretty much the only trick Mayo needed yesterday so good was Aidan O'Shea.

Connacht SFC final

Ever since his minor days, they have been excited about him in Mayo.

His armoury was good enough to interest AFL scouts. And when it became clear his future lay here, the only question was where could he be best deployed.

Against Galway, his stationing at full forward looked to have paid off. Against surely cemented his move to full-forward.

Late on Ross Donovan, the last in a succession of O'Shea markers, managed to beat possession away from the Breaffy man. It was probably the first time O'Shea hadn't been first to the ball all afternoon and Donovan's frustrated hoof into the stands was met with ironic cheers.

By the game's end, O'Shea had helped himself to 3-4 but it was his, and Mayo's first half performance that settled this.


Inside the six minute mark, they had 2-3 on the board and that was pretty much that. O'Shea was involved in the first goal, drawing enough attention to set Jason Doherty free. Doherty spotted Cillian O'Connor and the result was inevitable.

On their next attack, O'Shea played a one-two with his brother Seamus and he rifled to the net. Mayo had moved 2-4 to no score ahead before Niall Murphy landed a fine point to get Sligo off the mark.

That came after just 10 minutes play, but it already looked too late.

It was almost inevitable there'd be some sort of lull in Mayo's play.

In the following nine minutes, they hit just two points thanks in part to a fine Aidan Devaney save from O'Shea. That proved to be only a stay of execution as almost everything Mayo were trying came off.

Their third goal arrived when Andy Moran took a quick line ball.

O'Shea was nimble enough to catch a ball dropping over his shoulder. Once in possession, he powered through a tackle and was composed enough to clip into the corner of the net.

In a single play, he showed that rare mix of power and finesse that only a handful of players in the country possess.

"To be honest it's not my most natural position, it's not where I'm most comfortable," O'Shea said afterwards.

"I'm probably better with my head up facing the goals but it's something I have adapted to. I watch a lot of football and there are some top quality full forwards there and you can learn something from all of them.

"If you keep watching you can pick up things you can improve on. I have definitely adapted to the role a bit better over the last couple of years and become a bit smarter on it."

To their credit, at no stage in the first half did Sligo play like a team that had seen their biggest day pass by them in just six minutes.

Brendan Egan raided forward and finished to the top corner to give their support something to cheer. They probably should have goaled earlier too but for a fine David Clarke stop from Adrian Marren.

And while they were having some luck up front, their problems continued at the other end.

O'Shea was given an fatal amount of room to work in, something he'll hardly see again this summer. While in contact, Sligo were continually turned over.

They didn't do themselves any favours with their kick out strategy that saw them continually go short to a full back line whose confidence had been smashed by Mayo's early blitzkrieg.


And Mayo kept coming and were near perfect in most things they did and didn't register a wide until the 28th minute. O'Shea bagged his second goal of the half as Mayo went in 4-9 to 1-6 up at the break.

The second half was little more than an exercise in bookkeeping.

By the fulltime whistle, O'Shea had scored a hat-trick and 12 different Mayo players got on the scoresheet.

The county also secured five provincial titles on the bounce for the first time in their history and they did it in style, recording the biggest ever winning margin in a Connacht final.

While O'Shea grabbed most of the attention, the performance of Cillian O'Connor underlined why James Horan tipped him to make a big impact for the county this year.

The only blackspot for Mayo was the concession of two goals that could well have been more but for some fine work by Clarke. Sligo's tally of 2-11 would have been good enough to win eight Connacht finals since 2000 which will surely pose some questions for the Mayo management.

Afterwards, joint-manager Noel Connelly was asked to assess where this Mayo side stood in the pantheon of great teams to come from the county. His thoughts had already turned to what is coming down the road.

"Five-in-a-row speaks for itself. I can't say whether they are the best team or not, but over the last five years in Connacht they have shown that they are.

"They are outside Connacht now and they are into the quarter finals so they need to push on. The five-in-a-row is not the medal these boys are after."

SCORERS - Mayo: A O'Shea 3-4, C O'Connor 1-7 (4f, 1'45), D O'Connor 0-4, L Keegan, S O'Shea 1-0 each, J Doherty, D Vaughan, M Ronaldson 0-2 each, C Barrett, P Durcan, B Moran, A Dillon 0-1 each. Sligo: M Breheny 0-4 (2f), A Marren 0-3, B Egan, P Hughes 1-0 each, C Breheny 0-1, N Murphy, N Ewing, E McHugh 0-1 each

MAYO - D Clarke 8; K Higgins 7, G Cafferkey 7, T Cunniffe 8; L Keegan 8, D Vaughan 8, C Boyle 7; A O'Shea 10, T Parsons 8; J Doherty 8, S O'Shea 7, D O'Connor 8; A Moran 8, K McLoughlin 8, C O'Connor 8 SUBS: B Moran 8 for S O'Shea (24), A Dillon 7 for Moran (ht), B Harrison 7 for Cafferkey (45), M Ronaldson 7 for McLoughlin (51), P Durcan 7 for Keegan (53) C Barrett for Boyle (63).

SLIGO - A Devaney 7; R Donovan 5, E Flanagan 5, D Maye 5; K Cawley 5, K McDonnell 5, B Egan 6; C Breheny 6, N Murphy 5; B Curran 6, M Breheny 6, N Ewing 5; D Kelly 5, P Hughes 5, A Marren 6 SUBS: S Gilmartin 5 for Murphy (44), C Davey 5 for Ewing (50), J Hynes 5 for C Breheny (56) E McHugh 5 for Egan (56 BC), N Gaughan 5 for Cawley (58), L Bree for K McDonnell (65)

REF - P O'Sullivan (Kerry)

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