Wednesday 21 March 2018

O'Shea naturally the man to lead Mayo forward

Aidan O'Shea played masterfully in his new role at full-forward in the Connacht final
Aidan O'Shea played masterfully in his new role at full-forward in the Connacht final
Eoin Liston

Eoin Liston

Aidan O'Shea was masterful at full-forward for Mayo in the Connacht final at the weekend and I can't for the life of me work out why it's taken them so long to play him there.

Cillian O'Connor has been leading the line for them since 2011, when he made his debut as a teenager, and he has badly needed some help to take the pressure off him.

O'Shea does just that - takes the pressure off the other forwards and O'Connor in particular - as he proved against Sligo with 3-4 from play.

He has two great feet, he has a real presence on the edge of the square just because of his sheer size and he's very accurate. He has that drive and aggression required to win ball and once he has it he doesn't take the long way around - he just goes direct and has the power to create space for himself.

We saw on Saturday night in the Munster final replay that it's not as simple as putting a big man at full-forward and raining ball down on him. Cork moved midfielder Alan O'Connor there near the end in search of a goal and good as he is, it would take a lot of coaching to make a target-man out of him.

O'Shea has the natural ability to play there. He is agile despite his size, he has vision and is conscious of the players around him and he has a lovely quick toe-tap off left and right which allows him to step away from the tackle and curl the ball over the bar.

Mayo are lucky that they have plenty of midfield options. Tom Parsons could be a real option for them in the middle this year and they have someone like Barry Moran in reserve on the bench, which means O'Shea isn't missed in this sector.

Finally, I'd just like to pay tribute to the tens of thousands of fans that packed Killarney for the Munster final and stayed to the end despite the rain.

Irish Independent

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