Aidan O’Shea ‘optimistic’ about quick return from injury, says O’Connor

Initial reports were that Mayo man suffered a concerning knee injury in training

Castlebar hasn’t provided Mayo with many home comforts of late, from the run of league defeats they’ve suffered there – seven in the last 10 games – to the injuries they’ve picked up at home.

Captain Aidan O'Shea, following on from Jason Doherty and Colm Boyle in 2020, was the latest to sustain a concerning knee injury there last week during the team's first collective meeting of the year.

It was reported as potentially a season-derailing injury though colleague Cillian O’Connor said that while O’Shea awaits a definitive diagnosis, “he’s still pretty confident that he’ll be back to himself pretty soon”.

That’s good news for the 2020 All-Ireland finalists, though with two of their three upcoming National League group games at home in Castlebar, they could do with a turn in luck there.

Surface

O’Connor maintained it was purely coincidental that O’Shea, who is understood to have collided with another player, sustained the knock while training at home.

“In this instance it had nothing to do with the pitch anyway,” said O’Connor at the launch of the 2021 Kellogg’s GAA Cúl Camps which will run between June 28th and August 27th. “It could happen at Croke Park or anywhere. It didn’t have anything to do with the surface this time.

“I’ve never got injured there, it’s in pretty good nick at the moment and it’s weird almost doing pre-season training, if you could call it that, in such good weather. We are used to the first sessions being in the muck and slogging.

“You see a cone in the distance and it’s ‘get out there quick before the whistle goes!’ So it’s nice to be doing the first few sessions in good weather and in fairness the pitch is in good nick.”

With the season condensed and both the league and championship pared back this year, any significant injury sustained by a player could be more costly than normal.

“He got a bang all right,” said O’Connor of talisman O’Shea. “It was the first session back, early in the week, Tuesday. I think he’s had a scan and has to go for another one but I don’t think it’s too negative so far anyway. He’s still pretty confident that he’ll be back to himself pretty soon.

“I think he’s waiting for further . . . I think he has to get someone else to see the results of the scan to give him feedback on that. But I don’t think it’s too bad, so there’s still optimism that he’ll be back training soon.

“I didn’t even ask him about the league games to be honest. I just asked him how serious it was and he said he doesn’t think it will be too bad. He’s the type that he’ll be like a bull if he’s missing training sessions.

“He doesn’t really take well to sitting sessions out and I’d say he hasn’t missed a whole lot of games or sessions even over the last 10 years.”

Mayo are scheduled to begin their Division 2 North league campaign against Down in Castlebar on May 15th. They travel to Mullingar to play Westmeath on May 22nd and wrap up the group games at home to Meath on May 30th.

It may work in their favour that the games will be played in summer conditions because their springtime record at Castlebar is poor. Since 2010, they’ve played 38 home games in the league and won just 17. In the championship, in that same period, they’ve played 14 times and won 11.

Pretty heavy

Manager James Horan has described the pitch as 'slow' and said their GPS readings are generally better at other venues like Croke Park.

“A few of us have talked before about why that’s happened,” said O’Connor of the disparity in league and championship home results. “I’m picturing games from February when it is pretty heavy and again I wouldn’t use that as an excuse fully because it is the same for the other team. I’m sure they have speedy players, whoever they are, who would prefer dry weather too.

“But maybe it didn’t suit our game at times. It’s definitely the case now that it’s in good condition and like I said, training during the week, the pitch was immaculate, the weather was unreal and it probably will suit some of those more athletic players.”

On their league ambitions after a rare relegation in 2020 to the second tier, O’Connor said there’s a general focus on bouncing back.

“We want to win all the games we can in May and get promoted,” he said. “I can’t say we’ve earmarked anything as do or die stuff yet.”

He also gave broad support to the idea of increasing the amount of substitutions a team can make from five to eight, to help offset injuries in a condensed schedule.

“It’s important that we have enough subs anyway that you don’t pick up avoidable injuries, muscle or soft tissue injuries,” he said.