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O'Shea: We have to be more like Donegal

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O’Shea acknowledges the attacking flair they have shown in recent years, particularly from defence, but feels they may have to be more pragmatic and take a leaf out of Donegal’s book in how to close games out.

O’Shea acknowledges the attacking flair they have shown in recent years, particularly from defence, but feels they may have to be more pragmatic and take a leaf out of Donegal’s book in how to close games out.

SPORTSFILE

Mayo's Aidan O'Shea and Cork hurler Aidan Walsh at yesterday's launch of the ESB 'EnergyFit' programme in association with FutureFit

Mayo's Aidan O'Shea and Cork hurler Aidan Walsh at yesterday's launch of the ESB 'EnergyFit' programme in association with FutureFit

SPORTSFILE

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O’Shea acknowledges the attacking flair they have shown in recent years, particularly from defence, but feels they may have to be more pragmatic and take a leaf out of Donegal’s book in how to close games out.

Aidan O'Shea has raised the spectre of a more defensive Mayo in 2015 as they seek to address a clear vulnerability in possession of a decent lead.

The Connacht champions lost a five-point lead to Kerry in the drawn All-Ireland semi-final last August and then failed to protect a seven-point lead against the same opponents in the replay six days later in Limerick.

It followed the pressure they put themselves under when they lost a commanding grip of the All-Ireland quarter-final against Cork earlier in the month.

O'Shea acknowledges the attacking flair they have shown in recent years, particularly from defence, but feels they may have to be more pragmatic and take a leaf out of Donegal's book in how to close games out.

"It might be something we have to address. We are very attack-conscious, it does suit our game to play that way. We have some massive runners from our half-back line, even corner-back with Keith (Higgins)," he says.

"It's probably something that when we get into those positions, we make sure we... not taper ourselves completely, but make sure we don't lose a seven-point lead inside 10 minutes.

"Even in games we've won, the Cork game, after my goal this year we conceded a goal straight away and put ourselves under pressure. We were up by maybe five or six points at the time.

"So, absolutely, you can't be putting yourself in that position and expect to keep playing 100mph football because, if we're playing all-out attack all the time, we're going to be leaving gaps at the back and we've been exploited too many times."

On the All Star tour to Boston former manager James Horan pinpointed the 2012 All-Ireland final defeat to Donegal as the game he would 'like back' over his four years in charge.

VARIATION

For O'Shea, it has to be the 2013 All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin which was another variation on the theme of vulnerability that cost them last August.

"Realistically we kicked them off the pitch for the first 25 minutes of the game," he recalls. "I talked to Dublin backroom team members after that game and they were probably at a loss what to do. We were playing so well, but couldn't kick the ball over the bar.

"(Stephen) Cluxton kicks the ball over the sideline, we had a line-ball, we had possession and we kicked the ball away. Paul Flynn kicks the ball in and Bernard Brogan has a goal. Bernard hadn't touched the ball up to that point and it changes the game going into half-time.

"We put ourselves in a great position to win that game and at key moments we probably just lost concentration.

"Compare it to Donegal: if they were in that kind of position, I don't think they would have lost. If they go six or seven points up, the game is over."

O'Shea sees merit in some of the points made over the lifestyles of inter-county footballers recently but feels some of the comments are "a little bit over the top."

"I see Bernard Brogan talking about players putting their careers on hold for Gaelic football and I would definitely agree with that," he says.

"I can see from my own brother (Seamus), he has probably stood still from a career point of view because he wants to play football for Mayo but with a drive up and down the road? So it's probably getting to a level where it's very difficult to maintain both. But I don't feel like a slave to the game or anything like that.

"Everyone agrees the season is too long. Every professional sport has an off-season and we're the only ones that don't. I know we're not a professional sport but we don't have an off-season per se."

He welcomes the appointment of Higgins as team captain and describes him as the best footballer Mayo has ever had.

"Keith is a three-time All Star in a row now and is probably one of the most consistent players in the country. He is Mayo's best footballer of all time in my opinion.

"He probably changed his attitude under Horan as well. He's probably taking football more seriously than he ever has," says O'Shea.

"It has become very player-driven in Mayo and his job as captain is easier because he has a lot of good lads around him."

O'Shea has questioned his decision to return to action in last year's replay against Kerry after a collision with colleague Cillian O'Connor.

Both players were removed from the field of play for observation and were not cleared to return until it was established that they hadn't suffered concussion. In O'Shea's case, it was established that he had suffered a facial injury.

But O'Shea said he still felt "a little groggy" and wasn't feeling "100 per cent."

"It's very difficult when you're in the heat of a game like that and you think you can make a difference, regardless of what state you are in, to be objective and make a call like that," he reflected.

"I wanted to get back on the pitch. I came back on when Kerry had just scored a penalty. I suppose you're thinking you can make a difference.

"I know it is always very difficult from a player's point of view. It was a bit of a setback for us. Myself and Cillian were playing well in the previous games and it probably knocked ourselves off course a bit."

O'Shea has revealed that he has suffered "six or seven" concussions in his career.

Irish Independent