Friday 19 January 2018

'It's hard to be a robot and block it all out' - O'Connor

Mayo's Cillian O'Connor. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Mayo's Cillian O'Connor. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Mayo captain Cillian O'Connor has admitted it's very difficult for any player to completely block out the spotlight and critical comment that Aidan O'Shea has come under since last year's All-Ireland final.

But O'Connor, speaking at yesterday's launch of eir's association with the All-Ireland Football Championship, believes his colleague won't be "sidetracked" by the focus he has come under.

"I think if you are honest, for any human, anyone who is getting some stick that they might feel is unmerited or a bit over the top, it's hard to completely be a robot and block all that out," said O'Connor.

"Having said that Aidan is experienced, he's been around the block and playing senior inter-county football since he was in Leaving Cert year. He's won plenty of things, won plenty of medals.

"Sure, we've come up short last year and in years gone by, but I don't think he's getting sidetracked and spending his evenings going through all that's being said.

"Well, I do know," he added. "Because I'm usually there. He's been focusing on getting his fitness and his training and skills-work right.

"This isn't a complaint but we choose to take up a lot of our time with football, so I don't think he's going to be delving into finding out what's the latest dig being thrown at him."

Sports performance director and Monaghan native Fergus Connolly, who worked with Dublin in the early days of Jim Gavins' reign, declared last week that Mayo would not win an All-Ireland title in his lifetime and took issue with O'Shea taking part in the AIB-sponsored programme 'The Toughest Trade'. This was a theme touched upon by former managers Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly prior to Christmas.

In relation to Connolly's prediction O'Connor said they couldn't get caught up in "generalisations."

"I suppose when we're in the thick of it, we have to be as cold about it as we can and analytical about it and look at the facts rather than sitting back and making a sweeping generalisation.

"I think when you're involved in it, you can actually see the different components to games and where you did well and where you didn't do well and they're the things that we have to focus on. They're the things that the other teams are focusing on, tiny percentage gains.

"You saw it here in the league final with Kerry and Dublin that competed in that game, they have it down to a fine art.

"We're trying to make sure that we're focused on those things, the tiny little gains that we can make in our performance or preparation. We can't be sitting back looking at big headlines and stuff like that because that's not going to help us get better."


O'Connor feels the focus on O'Shea will leave more players reluctant to be honest and open like his colleague has been.

"I'm sure there are other players looking on at that example and other players coming in for flak," he said. "I definitely know there are players who feel that saying things and being honest about your performance or your team-mate or your manager or the opposition isn't worth it. There are definitely players that think it's not worth it and they have very little to gain from being open and honest.

"I'm not saying it happens regularly and player get cut at the knees every week. I just think that this has snowballed into something and I don't even think I know what the fuss was at the beginning."



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Irish Independent

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