Wednesday 21 March 2018

O'Shea: 'Mentally I was sick of putting boots on'

Mayo's Aidan O’Shea. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Mayo's Aidan O’Shea. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

In the weeks after their All-Ireland football final replay defeat to Dublin, compounded by Breaffy's exit from the Mayo club championship, Aidan O'Shea was finding it hard to execute the relatively simple task of putting on a pair of football boots.

So he opted for something completely different, lacing up a pair of basketball boots instead and committing to a winter with Sligo All Stars instead.

As a diversion, it was perfect to steer him away from the fallout from a third All-Ireland final defeat in five years and all that went with it.

Not that O'Shea consciously went there for shelter from any storm but he just found himself gravitating towards a sport that had drawn him in during his teenage years.

"It wasn't a strategic decision. It was just something different, something to enjoy not being on a football field, simple as that.


"There was nothing conscious about it. At the end of the year, I met Shane O'Meara who played basketball with me in Castlebar and I had met him 12 months previously and I knew that they were working away in Sligo and I knew it was something that I wanted to do.

"But it was completely out of the blue. I played it when I was 18/19. It (his return) was purely for enjoyment, have a bit of craic with a different group of lads and have a completely different buzz."

Mayo's latest All-Ireland defeat had been that more difficult to shake off, he accepted.

"Subconsciously I made the decision just to get away from it (football) after that one. Last year's one, I don't know if it hovered over more than the others or if it weighed heavier because you're a couple into them. I'm not sure.

"But it was difficult to take and you don't move on from them. I lost with the club as well in disappointing circumstances and I was kind of sick of football. Not sick of football but maybe mentally you're just sick of putting on the boots and that was the reason why I stepped away for a while."

Between trips to New York and a team holiday to South Africa he played six games before turning on his ankle doing a shooting drill on court.

Naturally, he knew there'd be a kick-back over getting injured playing basketball and it began at home when he met his father Jim.

"Jim was sitting on the couch when I got home that evening and he was looking at me and shaking his head. So I got it in the house never mind anywhere else.

"I knew the risks going into it but come this winter I'll definitely be going back up the road to Sligo, that's how much I enjoyed it.

"I'm not too worried - you can't go into something (thinking) you're going to get injured. That could happen this weekend playing for the club."

O'Shea missed 10 weeks of action but returned for the last two league games as Mayo, in typical backs-to-the-wall fashion, dug deep for wins over Tyrone and Donegal to preserve their Division 1 status. O'Shea came off the bench in both games and was instrumental, particularly in the Donegal match.

"The big driving factor for us was we've been in Division 1 a long time, and I wouldn't like to be part of a group that went down into Division 2.

"They were two big games, and we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get something out them. Tyrone was tight, but when it comes down to it, and we've proven it, we seem to be able to pull these kind of games out of the fire when it matters most. We were shocking against Tyrone in the first 50 minutes, and then we dug it out."

A 12-point defeat to Dublin in the middle of that league campaign doesn't concern him.

"I wouldn't be concerned about the margin of defeat. We were just a little all over the place. I wasn't with the group, and I know they were disappointed. Sometimes we have games like that, blown out of it. Cork last year, Dublin this year, but we didn't look too much into it.

"We didn't highlight that game at the start of the year. Hopefully, there will come a time we play Dublin again. We wanted to win every game, but we didn't single out Dublin in March.

"If we'd beaten Monaghan at home, beaten Cavan, we would have been in the league final. That's the more disappointing aspect, against teams we should be beating. We didn't find it to get over the line."

Ahead of a Connacht quarter-final against Sligo or New York O'Shea feels Mayo's preparations are better than they were 12 months ago.

"We had a lot of injuries last year after the league and participation levels were very low. Thankfully we have a lot of bodies back training. So there is a lot more consistency there," he said.

The introduction of additional All-Ireland quarter-finals is something which, O'Shea acknowledges, may not suit his county.

"If you were being selfish from a Mayo perspective, it probably adds more games to our schedule to get to an All-Ireland final. People might have said it was an advantage for us that we'd only have to win a certain amount of games to get to x, but now if you win a Connacht final you are still going to have a number of more games to get to a final.

"I think Mayo and Donegal are the two that it will most disadvantage with personnel being away. I'd know from the replays over the last couple of years, that week to recover can be tight, You have the boys travelling home from Dublin during the week, so you don't really get enough done."

Irish Independent

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