Saturday 17 August 2019

O'Connor unaware he had put over his record-breaking point

Cillian O’Connor on the way to overtaking Colm Cooper as the championship’s
all-time top scorer in Killarney last week. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Cillian O’Connor on the way to overtaking Colm Cooper as the championship’s all-time top scorer in Killarney last week. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

It is the milestone of the summer so far, but Mayo's Cillian O'Connor wasn't aware that he had overtaken Colm Cooper as the all-time top scorer in championship football in Killarney last week.

O'Connor admitted that as he popped over a free in the defeat to Kerry for his 284th point to add to his 23 goals, he didn't realise it was such a historic kick.

"Genuinely, I didn't even know what one it was, I swear. We were getting beaten, I was trying to get the ball over the bar as quick as I could. Seamie [O'Shea] was shouting at me to hurry up. We were setting up for the kick-out, the game is going at a hundred miles an hour, you're not thinking about stuff like that," he said.

With another 1-5 against Meath, O'Connor is already on his way to putting himself in an unassailable position for years to come with 53 games played at the age of 27.

But beating the record was never a factor as he prepared for last week's encounter, he insisted.

"Not to be down on it or anything but it didn't come into my head in the preparation for the game. It was a huge championship game, it was a huge day for the team, we wanted to win and that was really genuinely all I was thinking about.

Disappointment

"Then, after the game all my thoughts were just disappointment that we didn't get the points. It was just straight to Sunday, I really didn't think a whole lot about it.

"I know there were things said about it and maybe down the line people will be proud and stuff like that. But it's a team sport, I'm just (happy) after the team wins."

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A strong last-quarter display secured victory against Meath on Sunday to set up for a mouth-watering climax to their Super 8s group against Donegal in Castlebar. It's the type of game that had been envisaged when the format was being designed.

"It's just a massive two weeks now, it's exciting. It's a great carrot, a great thought. The new dynamic of big teams playing at home and away, moving about, not having the traditional quarter-final weekend in Croke Park, the double-headers, I suppose that's what I thought about, I thought about the home crowd and the extra dynamic of maybe tighter pitches and that smaller atmosphere.

"Like any team, to have a championship game in your back yard at this time of year to go through to a semi-final, what else would you want to play?"

O'Connor acknowledged that the free-wheeling nature of the format allowed his side no time to lick their wounds after their 10-point defeat to Kerry but by the time the bus was back in Mayo, it was already in the background as the focus turned to Meath.

"You have to take your learnings from it and start planning straight away. In the old format, you used to have three or four weeks off and there'd be a period of wallowing in the defeat, disappointment and post mortems but with this format, the wheel has to turn so fast.

"Management were great, just got our focus on Meath straight away. It was annoying, disappointing, a long bus journey as James [Horan] referenced but by the time we got back it was like, 'Right, let's get the bodies right for training'."

With a two-week break, Mayo can look forward to having Patrick Durcan and Keith Higgins, who picked up an injury at training last week, back again. Matthew Ruane and Diarmuid O'Connor are also close to a return after being out with a broken collarbone and fractured wrist respectively, though they may take more time to heal.

Mayo will also be monitoring a hand injury which Aidan O'Shea picked up on Sunday.

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