O’Connor: It’s a massive two weeks for us

It’s been one of those typically Mayo summers for Cillian O’Connor; misery, madness, and majesty all rolled into one.

O’Connor: It’s a massive two weeks for us

It’s been one of those typically Mayo summers for Cillian O’Connor; misery, madness, and majesty all rolled into one.

The campaign began with O’Connor on the sidelines, his return from knee surgery proving to be more protracted than anticipated.

At one stage, boss James Horan even had to clarify that there’d been no dispute with the former captain, describing the rumours as ‘crazy stuff’.

By mid-July, O’Connor was back and making history, shooting half a dozen points against Kerry in Killarney to become the Championship’s all-time leading scorer. At just 27.

Mayo, of course, lost that game which is where the misery comes in but now, after beating Meath, it’s all on the line again and they can secure an All-Ireland semi-final place by beating Donegal on Saturday week in Castlebar.

“It’s a massive two weeks for us now, it’s exciting, it’s a great carrot, a great thought to have that game coming, I’m getting excited just thinking about it,” said O’Connor.

“What more do you want? A Championship game at home against a top-quality opposition to go through to the semi-finals potentially. It’s a brilliant place to be.”

It will be a classic Championship game with all the trimmings, a virtual knock-out encounter and there’s even a dollop of rivalry there for good measure in what will be a repeat of the 2012 All-Ireland final.

It’s what O’Connor imagined the Super 8s would be when the new structure was first mooted.

“The new dynamic of big teams playing at home and away, moving about, not having the traditional quarter-finals at Croke Park, the double headers,” said O’Connor. “It’s having that home crowd and the extra dynamic of tighter pitches and that smaller atmosphere. For any team, to have a Championship game in your back yard at this time of the year to go through to a semi-final, sure what else would you want to be playing?”

Not everyone was won over by Mayo’s display against Meath on Sunday as they came from a point down after 54 minutes to win with a late scoring burst.

Yet set in the context of a 10-point loss to Kerry a week earlier, it was a creditable performance.

“With this format now, the wheel has to turn so fast,” said O’Connor of the short turnaround. “Management were great, they just got our focus on Meath straight away. So it was annoying, disappointing, and a long bus journey home from Kerry but by the time we got back it was, ‘Right, let’s get the bodies right for training during the week’.”

O’Connor played down his scoring feat and his rise to the head of the Championship charts.

It was his fifth point against Kerry, a free in the 54th minute, that took him above Colm Cooper and into new territory on his own.

“Genuinely, I didn’t even know what one it was, I swear,” he said.

“We were getting beaten, I was trying to get the ball over the bar as quick as I could. Seamie (O’Shea) was shouting at me to hurry up.

“We were setting up for the kick-out, the game was going at a hundred miles an hour, you’re not thinking about stuff like that.”

Quirke’s football podcast: Shane Lowry in Croke Park. Team selection farces. Do Tyrone need to be so defensive?

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