O’Shea playing ‘smart’ in forward role

There was no grand plan.

O’Shea playing ‘smart’ in forward role

No meeting of minds and eureka moment that had Aidan O’Shea, Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly rubbing their hands with glee in the knowledge that they had alighted onto something magical.

As O’Shea tells it, the idea of his returning to the full-forward slot that was his domain at the start of his inter-county career emanated from a low-key meeting at the start of the league. What they agreed was simply that he should see a bit more of the pitch than midfield. Unintended or not, the result now looks inspired.

O’Shea gave a performance yesterday as towering as his six-foot-four-inch frame, wandering in to full-forward after a handful of minutes to score 3-4 and leave his fingerprints on countless more of the 31 scores that Mayo piled up like firewood.

“To be honest, it’s not my most natural position,” said O’Shea as the posse of autograph-hunters hovered for their ‘I was there’ signature. “It’s not where I’m most comfortable. I’m probably better with my head up facing the goals, but it’s something I have adapted to.

“I watch a lot of football and there are some top quality full-forwards there and you can learn something from all of them. If you keep watching you can pick up things you can improve on. I have definitely adapted to the role a bit better over the years and become a bit smarter on it.”

That he has. There has always been a tendency to describe him in physical terms and, though his bulk and power are huge assets, he has gone on record before to point out he probably doesn’t lean on those attributes as some would have it.

That much was true here. His handling was sublime, his movement exquisite and his finishing no less impressive. A big man he may be, but O’Shea is beginning to look like one who can ally that size with the skill that can make him unplayable.

Holmes was quick to point out there were plenty of excellent individual performers — and there were — but there were times when Mayo simply lofted high balls in to his vicinity in the knowledge the Breaffy man was more than likely to emerge with the ball — which he invariably did.

Sligo, however, will look back over this one and realise they gave him far too much room. Why they didn’t task a second defender to his primary marker is a mystery though O’Shea was not complaining at the space available to him on what could have been a claustrophobic occasion.

If there is a downside to a day like this for Mayo, it will come in the shape of burgeoning expectations, which is ironic given they entered the campaign burdened by widespread doubts as to their ability to go to the well once more.

“We are young lads,” said O’Shea with a shake of the head, “just enjoying the opportunity to play football, we know we have the ability to go out and beat any team. There was no way we were going to come back weaker.”

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