All-Ireland glory the elusive goal for Mayo hat-trick hero Aidan O’Shea

‘At the end of the day we want to win the big one’

For once, it's not the winning management who we go chasing with our dictaphones after the final whistle. Oh, we dutifully talk to Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes, record their thoughts for posterity.

But in all honesty, we run the risk of offending them because we’re glancing over their shoulders. We are stage-door Johnnys and we only have eyes for the star of the show.

Aidan O’Shea eventually emerges. This was his day above every else’s. Sligo were clueless when it came to working out a plan for him and enjoyed his day’s flat-track bullying immensely. Even if, as he said himself, the whole gig is still a wee bit alien to him.

“To be honest it’s not my most natural position, it’s not where I’m most comfortable. I’m probably better with my head up facing the goals but it’s something I have adapted to. I watch a lot of football and there are some top-quality full-forwards there and you can learn something from all of them. If you keep watching you can pick up things you can improve on. I have definitely adapted to the role a bit better over the last couple of years and become a bit smarter on it.


“We’ve won a few Connachts in the last few years, so it was about performing. Obviously there was no surprises with Sligo, we knew after the Roscommon game with the way they played and the talent that they have up front that we had to prepare right or we’d be in bother. Thankfully, we did that and especially in the first half when we got some high turnovers up the field and got goals to kill the game off.

“It means a lot to be honest, this is my seventh year and this is my sixth title. We’ve only ever lost once game in Connacht and it’s a record I’m proud of. We’ve really knuckled down in the past couple of years under James Horan firstly and we got our act together which we’ve seen in how we’ve performed in Connacht in the last five years.”

Five-in-a-row in Connacht puts them up there with any Mayo team to have ever laced up boot, surely?

“I don’t know, we’ll let the history books tell that story. We know that we’re a quality Mayo team but at the end of the day we want to win the big one. Everybody has Connacht medals but only a few All-Ireland medals and that’s what we want to achieve . . .

Driving on

“We know we have the ability to go out and beat any team on our day. There was no way we were going to come back weaker. We were definitely going to come back and go well under new management and with a few new players. You saw there today that it is a squad game with the guys that came on and did very well. There’s players there that are driving it on.”

For Niall Carew, this was a chastening afternoon. His team is young and the win over Roscommon probably led them to believe this final was there for them.

“We’ve no complaints whatsoever,” said Carew. “O’Shea was immense inside and I think we tried four different markers on him. When we played a sweeper, we struggled with the runners. It’s a big learning curve for us.

Stand apart

“The gap is there. I’ve said it all along – you can throw a blanket over 23 teams in the country and seven or eight teams stand apart. Mayo are in that group. They’re in the top two or three in the country and they’ve been the most consistent team in the country for five years now.

“We needed the start that they got. The underdog always needs to get that start. Our lads will be disappointed in their work rate and energy levels which were way down today. They outclassed us today. No point saying otherwise. But they outworked us too and with the class that they have, that’s the scoreline you’re going to get.”

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times