O’Shea revealed that Dillon “has been great around the group”, as he paid tribute to the Ballintubber man and pharmaceutical firm Allergan work colleague, who yesterday announced his retirement from inter-county football.
The 35-year-old steps away with eight Connacht titles and two All-Stars and will be considered one of the finest footballers never to win an All-Ireland title, having played in six All-Ireland finals, two of them last year when he came on as a substitute.
“He’s not the only one who has missed out, there has been good players all over the country who have missed out, but, in fairness to Alan, he has pushed his body as far as it can go to try and get over the line,” said O’Shea.
“Last year, he broke his foot in the drawn game and kicked a score and he came on in the replay as well with a broken foot, so he doesn’t leave anything to chance and he has been great around the group.”
Dillon’s news also offers a realisation to Mayo’s players, as they chase the crown that has eluded them, said O’Shea.
“We are very aware of the age profile of the group and where we are. Alan is probably the first big retirement out of the group in a long time, so we are all aware of the time we have and trying to capitalise on that while we can.
“We have tried to do that, but have fallen short and the window is narrowing, but we have to keep at it. The problem we have had the last couple of years is nearly focusing too much on being there instead of focusing on the journey. You have seen us play poorly and we could have lost games we should really be winning and we have lost to Galway twice in a row. You can’t get obsessed in getting back there and trying to win the All- Ireland because there is so much stuff that can happen in between.”
O’Shea returned from Australia on Saturday and lined out with the Sligo All Stars basketball team, as he did last off-season, though that arrangement is unlikely to be a regular one this time around.
He thoroughly enjoyed his experience as Ireland International Rules captain, despite the illness that affected the team’s preparations before the first test in Adelaide.
“It was like a mini-hospital. A few of the boys, Niall Murphy and Enda Smith, we didn’t see them for four days. Enda Smith came down one day and looked like he’d lost a stone in weight. Michael Murphy was in bed up until the day before we got the bus over to the stadium the first day. Gary Brennan was out on the pitch the day before the game and had to run in to get sick. It was insane. We were going to the dressing room not knowing who was even going to be able to play,” said O’Shea, who supports the idea of a Test in the US next year.
“Yeah, that’d be cool. I made my debut for Mayo in New York. Philadelphia is what they are talking about. [GAA director general] Páraic Duffy was going to have look at it and if it is viable... I think the Australians are pushing for it in terms of getting into America and showcasing their players. It’s a shorter flight and, with Irish connections everywhere over there, I’m sure you’d get big crowds.”
He was astounded by the standard of the Australians’ hand-passing.
“Their hand speed is ridiculous. Our hand speed should be as competent as theirs, but it’s simply not. The way they move the ball forward is scary. It just shows the skill level we can get to in terms of our hand speed.”