Tuesday 17 July 2018

'We're doing f**kin' so many things well here' - Aidan O'Shea on watching the All-Ireland final with his brother

Ireland captain Aidan O’Shea in Croke Park yesterday for the International Rules squad announcement. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland captain Aidan O’Shea in Croke Park yesterday for the International Rules squad announcement. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Aidan O'Shea sits in front of the assembled media as International Rules captain but the interview is just a few questions old before talk turns to Mayo.

At this stage he's been through the post mortem and has re-watched the footage. It only served to confirm what he thought at the time. That in the annals of the heartbreaking defeats this Mayo team have suffered, the 2017 final stands alone.

"I think so, it has probably been the hardest one," he says softly. "When it's fresher it's probably harder as well. Yeah, it's harder because when you look at the game… I watched the game back with my brother. He said, 'Ah f**k it, we did that'. I was like, 'But Seamie, we're doing f**kin so many things well here'.

"When you lose a game by a point you're analysing every single play. That's a one-point loss. I'm sure Dublin made loads of mistakes, have places they would improve, but they won the game by a point so they don't have to reflect on those things.

"That's the tough part of it. You're looking at every little inch that you could have done better, could have improved.

"You look back on the game and think we played really well, just came up against a team that were better than us. Just lost control of the game in the last five or six minutes where I felt we were in control for long stretches. Just let it slip."

So there's agony and dreams of what might have been but he also accepts they came perilously close to their shortest summer in years.

"Typical us really. It makes ye (the media) look (like) fools - ye tell us we're not going to win anything and all of a sudden we turn around and play well again. We're never going to hammer a team by 20 points for some reason, like Dublin do in Leinster. We just don't do that. We always seem to keep teams in it.

"Realistically, we could have lost to Derry. (When) James Kielt was standing over that free, I thought, 'That's our season dusted' because I've seen him kick points from some yardage. I thought that was our season gone there. Thankfully, we dug that one out.

"When we got to Croke Park we got a bit of a scare here from Roscommon. Then we got our s**t together for a longer period of time against Roscommon."

On a personal level, it was a strange year for O'Shea. For better or worse, the Breaffy man seems to be the lightning rod for this team. Bernard Flynn and Fergus Connolly told stories that, whatever about their relevance, were less than complimentary. He was in the headlines again when switched to full-back for the games with Kerry. It seems there's scarcely a word written about Mayo that doesn't have him front and centre. For the large part, it washes over him.

Array

"If I've to be the lightning rod then that's fine. We have an array of players. Jason Doherty's had one of the best summers of a half-forward all year, and I don't think half the country has spoken about him, I think it's amazing.

"We've got some brilliant, brilliant footballers that maybe people don't give enough dues to. If I've to take the flak for some of it, when we lose a game, fine … it ain't going to make me up or down. If it means that the group don't get as much hassle over it then fine, I'm well used to it at this stage."

O'Shea is joined in the International Rules panel by team mates Brendan Harrison and Chris Barrett and jokes that Joe Kernan has selected the entire Mayo full-back line from the Kerry game.

"I was slagging the boys when I found out that Chrissy and Harry were in it, I said Joe must have been looking at the Kerry game."

At the time he was willing to answer the call, but he won't be wrestling anyone for the number three jersey next year.

"Well, I wouldn't 'enjoy' being a defender in general. I enjoyed the challenge … I enjoyed it up to a certain point. Obviously, if he gave me a choice where you want to play, full-back or centre-forward or midfield, obviously everybody knows where I'm going to play. But the challenge that Stephen asked me to do - I said, 'Yeah, why not?' I could see exactly why he wanted to do it, and I went along with it and I think it worked.

It will be an all-too-familiar winter in Mayo, full of what-ifs and if-onlys. As was the case 12 months, there'll be questions as to whether they can go to the well once more. O'Shea has no doubt they'll be in the shake up once again.

"We've a very strong group of players. That's why we've been so consistent. We wouldn't be happy with how we played in the Connacht Championship the last few years. But we know when it comes down the stretch against the big teams we can put it up to them and win.

"We've gone closer than anybody else really against Dublin. You can probably write what next season is going to look like for us, up to the championship. We'll win games in the league that people expect us to lose and lose games that we should win. There will probably be one hammering and everyone will say that's us done for the season. You're going to have boys back late, boys in Dublin who won't be training with us. When we get to championship we just seem to be a different animal."

Irish Independent

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