At half-time during Sunday’s All-Ireland minor semi-final, a gaggle of Mayo players strolled around the field. Some listened to music, others simply getting a feel for the hallowed turf. Aidan O’Shea, on the other hand, was engrossed in something on his phone. Taking in a collection of Lebron James’ finest moments put him in the perfect frame of mind to ready himself for action.
Positivity and visualisation will be essential for Mayo in the coming weeks. If they didn’t already know they won’t be fancied against Dublin or Kerry then they will be told ample times in the coming weeks. O’Shea, though, needs no schooling on how his team will be perceived in the build-up to September 18.
“Dublin and Kerry, it’s going to be a big game next weekend. We’ve lost two semi-finals to them over the last couple of years. We know the level they’re at, we weren’t anywhere near that so we know that realistically we’re going to be going in as underdogs and probably written off.
“But, look, it’s a great place to be and we have four weeks to get things right. We’ve won all our games since the Galway game struggling along and it’s great to be winning games when you haven’t been playing your best. That’s a big thing for us and now we’re in the final, which is great.
“The reality is the favourites will be coming from the game next weekend. They’re going to be expected to win the game.
“If it’s Dublin, they’re looking for two-in-a-row which hasn’t been done in awhile. If it’s Kerry, they’re the kingpins of the All-Ireland championship having won so many. They both have good records against us over the last couple of years and we’re aware of that but whoever it is we need to get the detail right and we’ve proved over the last couple of games that we’ve got our tactics spot on and we need to do that in four weeks time.”
Speaking on the pitch immediately after full-time, Andy Moran said Mayo were sick of being consistent. O’Shea couldn’t agree more. “Everybody knows we’ve been banging on the door for a few years and we have been very consistent but we haven’t been able to get over the line. This year, we haven’t been very consistent but if we get over the line and win the All-Ireland I’ll take that 100%. But we’ll have to be consistent in the final for 70 minutes because (against Tipperary) we flashed in and out for periods of time, when it was required, I suppose, but at the same time it won’t be good enough against a team that are at another level.
“We spoke during the week that we were in four semi-finals in the last two years, drawn two and lost two. Everyone says they were great games but we were on the wrong side of them and that’s the disappointing part of it. We said regardless of performance we just had to make sure we nudged into the next round. Our performance won’t make people happy, it won’t make ourselves happy but the reality is we’re in an All-Ireland final and that’s what we set out to do.”
O’Shea’s younger brother Conor produced the vital score with the 64th-minute goal to break Tipperary hearts. Naturally, the older sibling couldn’t have been happier for him.
“A bit of Suarez there, I don’t know. Delighted for him, to be honest. He’s battled hard the last couple of years. He’s probably been in the shadow of Seamie and myself but I’ve no hesitation in saying he’s the most talented of the three of us.
“He’s got skill to burn and he just needs a chance and that (goal) will bring him on a huge amount but I suppose it’s a special moment for him to kick such a great goal in an All-Ireland semi-final.”
O’Shea himself contributed a second successive display that indicates he’s back to his best. “I don’t know whether it was a blip or just not at the heights that people expect. I’ve been consistent but not consistently at a high level. I’ve contributed but not to the level I expect from myself. I’ve been playing well. I was sick going into the Westmeath game and the Tyrone game. People wrote us all off, wrote myself off and we really bounced back on that one. As I said, we’ve lost too many semi-finals over the last couple of years, two draws, two losses, and I wasn’t intent on losing another one.”
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