Former Mayo captain Peter Ford has slammed Aidan O’Shea’s critics, dismissing some of their barbs as “false” and “off the mark”, writes John Fogarty.
Admitting he has found the negativity directed at the 26-year-old “very annoying” and “upsetting”, the ex-Galway and Sligo boss, who currently co-manages O’Shea’s club Breaffy, says O’Shea is the most impressive player he has ever worked with.
In an extensive interview in today’s Mayo News, he takes a stand against the brickbats that have been thrown at the two-time All-Star.
“It’s completely wrong. Aidan is completely obsessed with winning a county final, as he is with winning an All-Ireland final. I find it very annoying and I find it upsetting that a player is put through that sort of upset and trauma.
“He’ll handle it well because he’s strong, he’ll ride it out. But it’s upsetting for his family as well because it’s so untrue.
“These people have no idea what kind of person Aidan is. When he’s dealing with supporters after games, that’s because he’s a warm person who is always generous with his time.
“What I see is a guy who’d do anything for anybody.”
Ford took aim at the perception that O’Shea is more interested in self-promotion than his football.
“It’s completely untrue, the picture that’s being painted. Most of the people are making comments and assumptions and they don’t even know him. I hear it myself, from innocent people who don’t know Aidan O’Shea and they assume that he’s arrogant or not committed or whatever. But nothing could be further from the truth.
“I’ve been involved with a lot of teams over the years, and I can honestly say that Aidan would be the most impressive guy that I’ve ever come across, as a footballer and as a person.”
He continued: “He’s not the only guy with (endorsement) deals or a sponsored car, but they (critics) always seem to pick on him. In an ideal world, people need to meet somebody to really know them. It’s very easy to jump on the bandwagon and speculate and say what they’re reading or hearing must be right.
“To suggest that he’s more interested in looking after himself or whatever is so false, so off-the-mark. He’s the opposite as far as I can see. People have no idea the amount of effort that he puts in. It’s football first for Aidan.”
Ford bases his opinion on O’Shea on what he has seen of him in Breaffy. “He’s not there to be ‘the man’; he’s there to help.” He continues: “It’s not his fault that he’s a star, that he’s hot property in the GAA. Okay, he hasn’t won an All-Ireland but how many players haven’t?”
Ford speaks glowingly about how much of a clubman O’Shea is, the number of hospital visits he makes and his engagement with the public, an example of which was recently criticised by former Meath player Bernard Flynn – “how can somebody be taken to task for this?” asks Ford.
As regards O’Shea’s football contributions, Ford indicated Mayo wouldn’t be competing so consistently without him.
“People need to ask: where would Mayo be if they didn’t have him? How many of the All-Ireland finals would they have got to? How many Connacht finals, All-Ireland quarter-finals and All-Ireland semi-finals have Mayo won with him in the team? To my mind, he’s been outstanding in most of them.
“Plus, you’ve got to realise that most of the time there are two or three lads dragging off him. That’s creating space and opportunities for other lads because he’s attracting so much attention. The reality is that’s he playing a lot of good games for Mayo and, okay, he wasn’t the best player in any of the All-Ireland finals but he was still in the top five or six if you go through it.”
Ford senses O’Shea can’t but have been affected by some of the criticism.
“It has to upset him, and it’s not a nice environment to be coming home to. It has to upset everybody.
“But it will make him stronger in the long run, and Aidan will know deep down that the only way to shut these people up is to win a county final with Breaffy and an All-Ireland with Mayo. He knows that.
“But he’s doing everything that is humanly possible to achieve those aims. And he knows what’s being said is untrue.”