It’s at times like the past couple of months Cillian O’Connor might be thankful for the small mercies.
Being out of Dodge, as he finished his teaching studies in Dublin, has kept him away from the chatter that has consumed Mayo as the bones of another All-Ireland final defeat were picked on.
That’s not to say the magnitude of the loss to Dublin has been any different for him compared to his team-mates living in the county.
James Horan last week likened the defeat to being hit by a bus or a train. O’Connor would agree with the analogy. “I suppose that’s one way of describing it. Just blown off your feet with the disappointment. It’s kind of hard to put into words. It hits you very hard and it eats away at you for a long time and it doesn’t go away.
“But it’s time now to look ahead.”
O’Connor and his colleagues meet up with Horan and the rest of the management team this weekend as they attempt to park another season that marginally fell by the wayside.
His assessment of Mayo’s display is a frank one. “We wouldn’t be happy with our level of performance in the final. That’s where we’d have our bones (of contention). It wouldn’t be the opposition or the ref or the crowd or anything,” he said, possibly in reference to Horan’s criticism of the fans not finding their voice on the day.
“It’s ourselves that we need to look at and why we didn’t play as well as we could have in the final.”
Being in the capital also cocooned him from the rumours that spread after the final about discontent in the panel in the build-up to the decider. Idle conjecture Horan recently dismissed.
“I think he was saying the players involved who were mentioned in those things were devastated. They would have been upset about it. It was only when James came out to quash all those rumours I became aware of them. Funnily, being up in Dublin a lot of the time, people don’t often come to me with these rumours.”
January 1 sees Mayo off to Dubai for a seven-day team holiday. By that stage, the pain of September 22 will have to be parked. “You can’t carry baggage beyond Christmas. You need to zone in and on focus on next year. When you break it down and look at the facts, we’ve lost two finals and reference people who have done that in the past. But I’d prefer to think our age profile is pretty good, our strength and conditioning from the last few years has been good and from talking to the lads, I know their mental strength is pretty good too.
“There are probably teams that would like to be in our position. There are people that would swap places with us so I’m positive for the year coming. It’s just about hard work between now and the National League, I suppose.”
O’Connor is likely to miss the majority of the Division 1 campaign as he this week begins rehab work on his right shoulder, which was operated on six weeks ago. He is roughly targeting a return to action in mid-March or early April.
“I still wanted to play with the club but, at the same time, my shoulder needed urgent treatment so I had the surgery,” he confessed.
He picked up the injury in a club game just after last year’s All-Ireland final and then aggravated it lining out for Ballintubber after the Connacht quarter-final win over Galway in May before doing it again in the All-Ireland semi-final against Tyrone. He faced a race against time to start the final but managed, although his preparation wasn’t ideal.”
Question is might it have had an impact on his contribution? “You convince yourself you’re going playing 100% and it’s not going to be an issue. The question is always there if I’d two or three weeks of full contact, would it have had a more positive impact?
“It was far from normal in the build-up. I wasn’t able to do 100% of training. Maybe it did have an effect, it’s hard to say. I’d love to have had four clear weeks. But I can’t change that.”
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