Ciarán McDonald might have been dropped from the Mayo panel in 2008 but, despite turning 37, he would love to return playing for the county again.
A blond bombshell no more, the brown-haired attacker helped his club Crossmolina into the county semi-final recently. He’s still playing the centre half-forward role he made his own over a 14-year county career. And he’s still impressing.
When they beat Westport in the county quarter-final rumours circulated about a possible return to the red and green. The internet message boards lit up. But no call was ever made.
In speaking to the press for just the fifth time since he made the Mayo panel in 1994, he admitted he would love to play for the county again but accepted that probably would never happen.
“Touch wood I am playing okay football,” he said. “Our club, which I love to bits, is in the semi-final. A group of young fellas training hard, pushing hard. Was I expecting a phone call? No, of course I wasn’t. [James Moran] has a strong young panel that he is building.
“Would I like to play for Mayo? Of course, I would, yeah. Realistically you can’t be bringing in fellas halfway through a season or two-thirds of the way through a season. It is not the way it is done.
“As I said, James Horan is a great manager. Proved it with Ballintubber, is proving it with Mayo. With God’s help let’s hope they win on Sunday.”
Ultimately his inter-county career was finished in 2008 when John O’Mahony cut him from the county panel in April. Known the length and breadth of the country for his flashy style, that expulsion from Mayo still hurts.
“Did I ever retire? Every team has a manager, as you well know,” he said. “It is the manager’s tough decisions to pick his panel. Did I retire from inter-county football? The manager at the time made his decision. Did I officially retire from inter county football? No.
“Everybody believes that they can go on forever. At the time, yeah, I thought I did. At the time. I thought there were a few more years left in me. I was still playing good football.
“Still training hard. Still managing the injury. I was all right, you know? That’s in the past.”
His former team-mate has joined him in exile, the only difference being Conor Mortimer’s was self-imposed following his failure to make the team for the Connacht final victory over Sligo.
Having played with both Conor and James, McDonald chose the diplomatic route.
“That’s between the manager at the time and the player at the time.
“Conor Mortimer is a great servant to Mayo football. Top scorer of all time. James Horan is a great manager. I firmly believe it’s between the two of them. That’s it.”
But when it came to Mayo and Dublin, his heart was firmly with the men from the west.
“Mayo need goals to win. Mayo are in a good place at the moment. Okay, Dublin haven’t played well yet they are beating teams,” he said.
“That Laois team they beat was outstanding, yet people say Dublin played bad. They still beat them.
“Everything has to click for Mayo. The midfield battle is key. Mobility.
“But do they have the belief to win? Yep, I believe they do. Does James Horan have the belief to win, does he have the plan? I believe they do. I believe they’ll beat Dublin.”
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