O'Shea: It's hard to see Dillon go, he's come so close to glory
The news of Alan Dillon's retirement broke yesterday morning but Aidan O'Shea and the Mayo players knew it was coming.
Dillon had told a few of them on a recent trip to Chicago and let the group know officially just before the news broke in the media.
"In fairness to Alan I'd say he knew from a long way out this was going to be his last year," said O'Shea, who described the departing Dillon as one of the best players he has played with.
"It's very hard to let go because he has gone through so many years and a lot of finals and lost. And he's been very close to winning and gotten some bad beatings as well so it is hard to let go when you see a chance. But he probably feels he has pushed himself as far as he can go."
O'Shea points out that it's the first high-profile departure from the Mayo group in a number of seasons but it also serves as a reminder that time waits on no one.
At just 27, the Breaffy man is heading into his 10th season with the county in 2018 and knows the window of opportunity is closing.
"Alan had the opportunity to compete at a level where he could try and win All-Irelands.
"Some players don't get that chance. He has played well in big games and done it consistently for Mayo.
"From a time perspective I'm as aware as anyone. I'm going into my 10th season I think so we are very aware of our age profile of the group and where we are.
"Alan is probably the first big retirement out of the group in a long time so we are all aware of the time we have and are trying to capitalise on that while we can.
"We have tried to do that but have fallen short and the window is narrowing probably but we have to keep at it."
Mayo head for Kuala Lumpur on a team holiday in late December with their front-line players set to miss the early part of their FBD League campaign.
O'Shea reckons Stephen Rochford's side will return as keen as ever to get over the line.
"You are motivated as ever. You crave those moments that we have put ourselves in and the motivation is to get back there.
"The problem we have had the last couple of years is nearly focusing too much on being there instead of focusing on the journey.
"You have seen us play poorly and we could have lost games we should really be winning and we have lost to Galway twice in a row.
"You can't get obsessed in getting back there and trying to win the All-Ireland because there is so much stuff that can happen in between."
O'Shea skippered Ireland's International Rules team on their tour of Australia and he believes the series has a bright future thanks to renewed interest from the AFL and their players.
"I think they have more motivation than us, especially if you see the dollar signs they are getting!
"I think they do, I think they are more interested now than ever before to be honest and even talking to their players they enjoy it too."