Cillian O’Connor named to start against Dublin

Former boss Maughan backs decision to include free-taker in 15 that takes the field

Mayo have decided to include  Cillian O’Connor  in their starting line-up for Sunday’s All-Ireland final. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Mayo have decided to include Cillian O’Connor in their starting line-up for Sunday’s All-Ireland final. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho


Former Mayo All-Ireland manager John Maughan says the decision to include Cillian O’Connor in the county’s starting 15 for Sunday’s All-Ireland football final against Dublin was “obvious”.

Manager James Horan has decided, as expected, to include O’Connor, who is recovering from a dislocated shoulder, picked up in the semi-final win against Tyrone, in an unchanged line-up.

“It would have made no sense to put him on the bench,” said Maughan, who took Mayo to finals in 1996, ’97 and 2004.

“They’re satisfied with the way he’s come through preparations and he’s a resilient, tough young fella. It will be important to have him there for the frees and unless he has an accident he could be there for the whole match. It’s a risk worth taking.”

Team captain Andy Moran, who has been struggling a bit for full fitness in recent matches, is also named to start in the other corner.

“I think that makes sense as well,” according to Maughan.

“Andy would be the first to put his hand up and say he’s had a difficult time over the summer, which isn’t surprising because he missed so much heavy training earlier in the year. Maybe he could be played at centre forward rather than in the corner, where the pressure is on to make quick turns.”

O’Connor’s fate is the most significant factor governing the final, as he has been Mayo’s best forward and is poised to end the championship as the top scorer with 6-14 to date.

Six changes
The team shows a surprising six changes from the 15 that lost last year’s final against Donegal. Goalkeeper Robert Hennelly, who claimed his place for the Connacht final after two goalkeepers both picked up injuries, corner backs Tom Cunniffe and Chris Barrett, centrefielder Séamus O’Shea and inside forwards Alan Freeman and Moran, who was injured last year, all come in to the starting line-up.

Maughan says that the team is in a different frame of mind to his side of ’97, which also reached back-to-back finals but lost to Meath after a replay and a Maurice Fitzgerald-inspired Kerry.

“Preparation and psychology have moved on. Young fellas of this generation have a different mindset and the team are playing with great confidence. There’s a sense of unfinished business about last year and a reservoir of talented individuals behind this team.”

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