They’ll go two months without kicking a ball between their Allianz League and All-Ireland Championship campaigns, but Aidan O’Shea reckons the gap may be a blessing in disguise for Mayo.
Mayo’s interest in the league ended last Sunday week, when they beat Down to maintain their status as the longest-serving team in Division 1.
They won’t return to action until May 29 when they face London in the quarter-finals of the Connacht championship.
Mayo will be expected to win that game easily, meaning their next serious match probably won’t be until June 18 when they face Galway.
It leaves new manager Stephen Rochford with around two months to fine-tune and tweak his team after a middle-of-the-road league campaign that saw them narrowly avoid both relegation and a semi-final place.
“We just had a scattered league, with different things going on, player injuries, all sorts,” said O’Shea. “So, definitely, I think this period of time is key for this group in 2016. A lot of work has to be done. It starts tonight for us and maybe it is a blessing to have these six or seven weeks, as it is from now.
“In fairness, we are fairly attuned to the longish gap from the last few years. We probably don’t have as much work done at this time of year compared to other teams, as they are playing championship in three or four weeks time, but the way we prepare for championship has worked well for us over the last number of years. We have been right there when we have needed to be.”
As for Mayo’s patchy form, which yielded three wins and four losses, the All Star full-forward shrugged.
“We used 35 players in the league, which would have been unheard of in the last few years. Boys were coming back late, the likes of Cillian O’Connor; Keith Higgins was gone for most of the league and other boys got a run. We just got on the side of a few bad results overall. The Dublin game was a messy night and there was nothing in it for a finish up. The Cork game, there was nothing in it.”
Still, O’Shea moved quickly to insist it’s no done deal that they’ll account for London in their championship opener. He was part of the side that, by his own admission, should have been beaten in London five years ago and eventually escaped with a three-point win after extra-time.
“We missed a penalty early on in the game,” recalled O’Shea. “Aidan Campbell missed a penalty, we missed a few frees and London just grew in strength. They got a goal, a high ball in, and flicked it in. Then it started to snowball. It was a strange, strange atmosphere there, big crowd and all of a sudden nothing is going right for us.
“Myself, Trevor Mortimer, Kevin McLoughlin came off the bench and the lads got two big scores in injury-time. To be honest, I thought we were gone that day, didn’t know what to think. It was a crazy, crazy atmosphere, something I will never forget.”
Aidan O’Shea was speaking at the launch of the Kellogg’s Cúl Camps 2016, which will run from July to August, for children aged six to 13.
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