With more time to consider Cillian O’Connor would have gone for goal against Dublin
Mayo forward admits his side have regrets as he continues his rehab from injury
Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor kicks Mayo’s last score in injury time of the All-Ireland football final against Dublin. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
“Post mortems . . . They’re tough. Have to be done, but.”
So concludes Cillian O’Connor after his own chilling dissection of the two months since Mayo’s All-Ireland football final defeat to Dublin. And whatever about taking up every waking hour since there is one thing about that defeat which may haunt him for the rest of his life.
“If I could go back now, knowing that the game would be blown from the restart, obviously I would have thrown caution to the wind, and tried to go for the goal,” says O’Connor.
“The way it went, I thought there might be one more passage of play. My understanding was that there would be another little bit of time, and if we had maybe won the kickout, and scored an equaliser . . . I’m just saying it would have looked like a good decision. But if I knew there was as little time as there was I would have gone for the goal.”
For those who may need reminding, this was the moment O’Connor lined up a 21-metre free, deep into injury time, while asking referee Joe McQuillan how much time was left. Mayo trailed Dublin by two points, and clearly under the impression there was still time for more than just the kickout, O’Connor tapped the free over the bar. Then, the final whistle blew as Stephen Cluxton’s kick-out landed.
So what exactly was the message from McQuillan?
“Well I just said how long was left, and his answer was 30 seconds,” explains O’Connor. “Then Barry [Moran] shouted how long was left and he said 30. And Donal Vaughan came running in and he said 30. So it was obviously rolling all the time, and with people in the way, and me moving and steadying and taking my time, and doing my routine. He was including all of that. I wasn’t.
“The fact that he told Barry and Donal the same thing, I thought it was just 30. But obviously he [McQuillan] didn’t do anything wrong either. At the same time you have to remember that there were 13 or 14 people on the line. The game wasn’t lost in the last passage.”
Indeed it wasn’t, and O’Connor certainly hasn’t gone looking for any further explanation from McQuillan. “No, I wouldn’t dwell on it, and I wouldn’t be pointing the finger at anyone, and wouldn’t be in any way sour or bitter.”
Yet what haunts O’Connor and his team-mates as much as anything is the realisation they didn’t play to their full potential. No county can lose a seventh All-Ireland final and be easily defiant in the face of defeat.