Sunday 25 March 2018

Dillon at peace with decision to call time on Mayo days

Former Mayo footballer and current Ballintubber player Alan Dillon at Croke Park yesterday for the launch of the first GAA Player Conference, which takes place in Croke Park on Saturday February 17. Photo: Sportsfile
Former Mayo footballer and current Ballintubber player Alan Dillon at Croke Park yesterday for the launch of the first GAA Player Conference, which takes place in Croke Park on Saturday February 17. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Alan Dillon would have been entitled to join Mayo on their team holiday in Kuala Lumpur last month.

As a member of the 2017 panel, he could have travelled east with them as part of his farewell after 15 seasons' service. But something told him that wasn't the way to go out.

He'd been on a few of those trips in the past. And while they were about bookending the efforts of the year before, they were also about turning attentions to the new campaign. He wasn't going to be part of that journey and with that in mind, he decided it wasn't the place for him.

"I suppose it was like when I got off the bus (after the All-Ireland final) I was off the bus," he said the launch of the first GAA player conference which is designed to educate adult club players on player welfare.

"There's a different idea of being around the squad and they will be doing some collective sessions on tour, they were in Kuala Lumpur for a while and by all accounts (there were sessions) that I was happy enough not to be in!

"I kind of knew from previous ones, even South Africa, that there will be a few collective sessions together. I didn't want to be in an environment where you were the gooseberry among a group of lads.


"When January comes along and you hit New Year, the focus is the first round of the league, you have only three or four weeks to get ready. I didn't want to be the man at the bar until 12 or 1 in the morning singing songs!"

So that was that. A lifetime gone in a moment. In his mind, 2017 was always going to be last. He went after it hard last year but didn't get the minutes on the pitch he'd have liked. People urged him to hang on this year, telling him Mayo were just a lucky bounce away from finally getting over the line but his mind was made up.

"That was the general narrative, 'Listen, we are that close'. But turning a one-point defeat into a one-point win is a two-point swing, you are looking for percentages everywhere. You can't just be in that set-up. You have to be contributing and feel you can make that difference.

"Last year I was frustrated. I was playing as hard as I could play in A v B (games) but there comes a time where younger, fresher blood needed to be introduced in the final and you have got to accept that too. It's a younger man's game and things are more focused now on pace and power and in the last 15 minutes that's what we needed.

"You have to accept that as well and hopefully next year they can find one or two players that can make that difference and push them over the line."

There was a change in him too. Life had moved on.

"Every decision you make was surrounding how you were going to perform for Mayo. That involved work, everything in your life was dictated by training, recovery, your strength and conditioning. That kind of stuff.

"There comes a point in your life where other things come into play, I got married last year as well and you have to factor that in, your ambitions in your career and what you want to do.

"And then you are not getting as much game-time which is a factor as well. So you put them all into the mix and once you are happy with your decision, you kind of just go with it."

Dillon had both a brilliant and disappointing career. Fifteen seasons at the sharp end of things is a remarkable innings but the crowning glory of an All-Ireland medal - which he had come so close to so many times - eluded him. If they were to get over the line this year, would he be tormented by his decision to step away?

"It's a tough one to answer. I would be the first man to pat every one of them on the back, because I have such admiration for the group of lads that are there. I suppose there would be a sense of 'what if' but as a Mayo man I'd be as proud as any other supporter would be. I don't think I'd ever be envious or jealous. I know the amount of work it takes to get there and maybe it's that small bit of luck that we probably haven't got in previous years that might get this team over the line."

And after taking Dublin to the wire once more last year, Dillon believes a win over the All-Ireland champions would be huge for Mayo.

"I wouldn't say they have a hoodoo over Mayo, maybe they have got across that line, which they know psychologically that no matter how tight it gets that they will see it through. Maybe that's a barrier Mayo need to get through this year, winning those tight games. I know from winning tight games, it's more than just a win - it's psychological, it's team building, it's everything together. The harder the struggle, the sweeter the victory."

Irish Independent

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