Aidan O’Shea won’t look back as Mayo search for Holy Grail

An aggrieved Aidan O’Shea has dismissed as inaccurate last year’s cutting interview given by former Mayo managers Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes.

In December, the pair spoke to the Irish Independent and made a number of unflattering claims about the 2015 panel, whose vote of no confidence compelled them to step down after one season in charge.

O’Shea was singled out, along with older brother Seamus. The 26-year-old was depicted as a footballer distracted by the trappings that go with the game. It was also mentioned that he sent management an email querying a selection decision.

Put to him that old ghosts in the shape of Connelly and Holmes came back to haunt in the piece, O’Shea remarked: “I wouldn’t say haunt — it’s not a word I would use. It’s old news. It’s factually incorrect and that’s unfortunately the way the paper wanted to write it. That’s their prerogative. It’s not something I dwell on — I’ve completely moved on myself, personally, and the group have completely moved forward.”

O’Shea did express disappointment at not being afforded the right to counter what Connelly and Holmes said about him. He intends giving his side of things in the future but not now. He said: “I’m not going to get into it, to be honest with ya. It’s not the time or place but some day in the future I’m sure I’ll go back over it, yeah.”

What the 26-year-old is happy to claim is the article had little effect on the county’s following for their team and the duo’s comments have motivated the players.

“No, I think Mayo people, the support hasn’t wavered in what we have done. We’re trying to do something that is bigger than an interview in a dull week in December. We’re trying to win an All-Ireland for lots of reasons but that’s not one of them.”

O’Shea only returned to action in the final two league games, where his contributions off the bench were integral to Mayo beating Tyrone and Donegal to avoid relegation. An ankle injury picked up while training one Monday evening in mid-January with basketball outfit EJ’s Sligo All Stars kept him on the sidelines. His decision to try his hand at the sport again was criticised not just in Mayo but his home too.

“Not only the public, when I came home that evening Jim (his father) was sitting on the couch and he was looking at me and shaking his head. So I got it in the house never mind anywhere else! I knew the risks going into it but come this winter I’ll definitely be going back up the road to Sligo, that’s how much I enjoyed it.

“I’m not too worried — you can’t go into something... you’re going to get injured. That could happen tomorrow morning playing for the club or this weekend playing for the club. It was an enjoyment factor more than anything else. Going up there, I wasn’t expecting to contribute at all; I just wanted to train and have a bit of fun.”

A

t the same time, O’Shea admits it was a release from football after another All-Ireland final defeat, his third in total. “Yeah, subconsciously I made the decision just to get away from it (football) after that one (final replay loss to Dublin). Last year’s one, I don’t know if it hovered more than the other or it weighs heavier because you’re a couple into them. I’m not sure.

“Yeah, it was difficult to take and you don’t move on from them. I lost with the club as well in disappointing circumstances (Breaffy’s surprise county semi-final defeat to Knockmore) and I was kind of sick of football. Not sick of football but maybe mentally you’re just sick of putting on the boots and that was the reason why I stepped away for awhile.”

O’Shea wasn’t available for the 12-point hammering Dublin dished out to them in Croke Park at the start of March but didn’t read much into it — “we were just a little all over the place”. He admits Mayo were “shocking” for the opening 50 minutes against Tyrone.

Just about avoiding relegation doesn’t exactly hint at a great summer for Mayo but he senses the group are in a healthy frame of mind ahead of their Connacht quarter-final against Sligo or New York in Castlebar on May 21. “I think from last year, going in after five Connacht titles in a row, maybe subconsciously we took our eye off the ball. Those things happen. Yeah, maybe that edge around the Connacht championship is back, and (we) really want to win that, and maybe put us in better stead.

“There was a serious shock factor last year, and I think you saw that in the way we struggled over some of the qualifiers. So yeah, (Mayo are in a) better place from a player point of view and just bedding in with Stephen (Rochford). That bodes well.”

O’Shea is not taking any positives from Kerry beating Dublin in last month’s Division 1 final. “I don’t think we need encouragement from Kerry. We feel we’ve had a few good battles with Dublin. They’ve had the upper hand, no doubt about it, but we didn’t need Kerry for us to know Dublin are beatable.

“Throughout the league, Donegal drew with them, Monaghan ran them very close. We know we have a game capable of beating them, but again, look, it’s a long way away before we’re playing Dublin so it’s not something we’re focusing on.”

Aidan O’Shea was speaking at the launch of AIB’s ‘Club Fuels County’ sponsorship of the All-Ireland SFC


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