Saturday 25 November 2017

'It's a big year for Aidan O'Shea, he needs to step it up another gear' - Conor Mortimer


Former All-Star forwards Conor Mortimer and Owen Mulligan pictured as they were announced as Paddy Power's GAA ambassadors. Pic : Lorraine O'Sullivan/Sharppix
Former All-Star forwards Conor Mortimer and Owen Mulligan pictured as they were announced as Paddy Power's GAA ambassadors. Pic : Lorraine O'Sullivan/Sharppix

Michael Verney

Conor Mortimer understands why former Mayo joint-managers Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes aired their grievances in public after losing their job under pressure from players but believes it accomplished nothing except "adding more rubbish to the pile" in the county.

After being relieved of their managerial duties in controversial circumstances following a player heave at the end of 2015, Connelly and Holmes sought to get their side of the story in the public eye in a revealing Irish Independent interview before Christmas but Mortimer feels their motives were not in the best interests of helping to end Mayo's 66 years without Sam Maguire.

"If you're effectively shafted, you're going to have an axe to grind at some stage," the former All-Star attacker said. "I don't think their reasons were what they said. For the better of Mayo football, clearly not. Clearly it's a negative for Mayo.

"It's more rubbish on the pile that's there already in relation to all the stuff that has gone on since 1951 in relation to us winning an All-Ireland. You need everything working very smoothly for you to go on and win an All-Ireland without needless stuff like that.

"It's not a personal thing for me but they didn't really have a leg to stand on when the players came chomping, because those players know what it's like at the top level and what it takes in training and preparation to be at the top level."

Mortimer feels the pressure is on Stephen Rochford in his second season at the Mayo helm but he doesn't expect any drastic changes in personnel, although nailing down a permanent spot for Aidan O'Shea (preferably at midfield) is a priority.

"The pressure is on Rochford, that's why you're going to see the majority of the players that have been there the last two or three years will play again this year," the Paddy Power GAA ambassador said.

"The positional sense of Aidan O'Shea is primarily important for Mayo, to play him in a position and leave him in that position. I'd prefer to see him at midfield, he's better there, he needs to get his fitness levels to a level of playing at midfield for 70 minutes.

"A lot of players out the field struggle and they go inside and get their breath and come back out. To win All-Irelands your levels need to be at the Cian O'Sullivan, the Michael Darragh Macauley, the Kerry midfielders, that you're up and down all day for the full 70 minutes, that's what you need to get to.

"The positional thing is the big one, Rochford needs to sort that out this year for Aidan O'Shea. If we're to win anything he's going to be a primary player for us, if he doesn't play well we will struggle to win games, there's no two ways about it.

"That's not pressure, that's the reality of being one of the top players, you have to perform to win games and if you don't we don't, effectively."

O'Shea is much-maligned in many quarters but Mortimer believes it's only natural as he puts himself in the limelight but he feels much of the criticism is over the top and he feels "it's big a year for him" to deliver on the pitch.

"Aido does his bit of media stuff and he's out and about there, it's very easy for people to have a pop off him in relation to 'you can do all the talking if you win an All-Ireland' which is fair enough that's one side of the argument," Mortimer said.

"At times it's very harsh because a lot of the criticism will come from within, it's a lot of Mayo people that would be on his case and I would've found that over the years, Ciarán McDonald would've found that over the years, that's the hardest part, it's your own. 

"If you put yourself out there you have to be prepared to take the bite when it comes, same with Twitter and social media, you're on it, you're ready for the backlash if you do or say something. As a player if you don't play well you're going to get it.

"He's a big boy, he's not 15 or 16, I would like to see the performances all through the year this year but I go back to it, it's very unfair on him that he's in and out. He's out at midfield, he's in at full-forward, he's not getting settled to one position and that's down to the management.

"It's a big year for him, the best way for him to answer is on the field, lead his team the way he can lead it. He's done it numerous times over the last five or six years since he broke onto the Mayo team as a young fella. It's a big year. He needs to step it up another gear."

Irish Independent

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