Listening to Diarmuid O’Connor assess his performances this summer, you could conclude he has been fortunate to hold his starting role with Mayo.
After emulating brother Cillian these last two seasons in claiming the young footballer of the year award, his assessment of his football in 2017 is honest and unvarnished. “Individually, inconsistent would probably be the big word, no more than the team performance, kinda been up and down, hasn’t been as consistent as I would have liked.
“After every game, I review my own performance no more than the team’s performance and just see what I can improve for the next game, just forget about the game and work on whatever I can improve on.”
O’Connor has started all but one of nine Mayo’s SFC games and has been replaced after each of those starts, the first for a blood injury against Sligo, most recently for the knock he picked up in the All-Ireland semi-final replay win over Kerry, which followed his early goal. That was his third goal of the campaign but he knows there is more in him.
“Whatever role I’ve been asked to do for the team, I try to carry it out as best I can. Some games I’ve been inconsistent for whatever reason. I can’t put my finger on why. It’s the same with a lot of players early on, no one would have put their hand up and say they played the best they can play. I don’t think it has changed since. There are always bits that we can improve on. I’ll be looking at what I can improve on for the final.”
Burnout is a suggestion O’Connor readily dismisses, even if he has been hampered both this year and last by constant hamstring difficulties. “A lot of other players have been through the same thing as me and it hasn’t bothered them. I can’t really use that as an excuse.
“Some days, it’s just not your day and you don’t play as well as you hoped going into the game. There is no point dwelling on it for too long, it’s not going to help you for the next game. You just take out whatever you can for the game. You need to improve on maybe two or three things. There is no point focusing on too much.”
If O’Connor is truthful, he doesn’t go seeking the advice of his older sibling and captain, rather Cillian comes calling. “He’s experienced a lot more, he’s been there a lot longer than I have. No different than any player. We just help each other out. I wouldn’t go to him more than anyone else. We’re all comfortable to go to each other. Older players come to the younger players. Everyone is comfortable going to each other and asking each other for advice.”
Sunday will mark O’Connor’s fifth championship clash with Dublin. He’s posed the question which of those games he would like to take back had he the opportunity. The answer is diplomatic: “Tough question. I don’t know. Probably take them all back because we didn’t win any of the four but we don’t tend to dwell too much on years gone by. It’s not going to do us any favours leading up to this game.
“Each year is completely different to the next. There are fresh faces and different tactics so there is no point thinking too much about those games.”
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