O’Neill prepared for the long haul with Mayo

NEW Mayo senior football trainer Cian O’Neill insisted there was no acrimony when he informed Tipperary boss Declan Ryan of his decision to quit last month.

O’Neill was ratified last Monday night as the latest addition to James Horan’s management setup. He believed it was important to stay with Tipperary this season to offer continuity in the wake of the departure of Liam Sheedy last winter.

“After Liam Sheedy decided to step down, I thought it was important to stay on for a year and maintain some continuity,” he said.

“It wasn’t the type of thing then where I wanted to get away from Tipperary. I just wanted to get back into coaching in either football or basketball, as they were my two areas of expertise. I sat down on September 22 with Declan Ryan for my annual review where I gave him a written report.

“By that stage I’d been in contact with James Horan. We wouldn’t have known each other personally but would have a mutual friend. Since I had Mayo on my mind, I was up front with Declan. We wished each other well and I’m going to keep a very close eye on Tipperary’s fortunes. The last four years were a brilliant experience and I made some lifelong friends there.”

O’Neill admitted the travel involved was a major consideration before he agreed to come on board with Mayo. The Kildare native is the course director for the BSc Physical Education programme at the University of Limerick, with the third-level institution over 180km from Mayo’s training base in Castlebar.

“It is definitely a trek from Limerick. When I was asked, I took a few days trying to decide was this the right move for myself and the right move for Mayo football.

“The prospect of going back football coaching and working with a progressive manager like James made it hugely attractive. But the travel was a serious consideration. You’re going to encounter traffic in places like Tuam and Claregalway on the way up and I’m going to have to work with the UL management with my own scheduling for work.

“But I planned it out and decided to go for it. It’ll involve leaving Limerick at around half three every Tuesday and Friday afternoon to head to Mayo and then you’re arriving back before one o’clock in the morning.”

O’Neill, who will be primed with the football aspect of Mayo’s training while Dr Ed Coughlan continues to oversee physical preparations, believes his role will be made easier by working with players like Enda Varley and Seamus O’Shea in UL.

“That was definitely a big factor. I would have formed a close bond with those players and they raved about James Horan as a manager.

“Going into a squad now knowing five or six players will ease the transition process for me. I’ll be handling the football coaching and Dr Ed Coughlan will do the physical work. I’m really looking forward to working with him.”

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