Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea suggests a levelling of the playing field

Towering midfielder forsees a future where smaller counties would be forced to amalgamate to take on the Dublins and Kerrys

Where to begin with Aidan O'Shea? Maybe the lesson learned putting Frankie McGlynn on his hide last August. Or his recent Twitter exchange with Tadhg Kennelly. Or last Sunday at Croke Park.

To the Kennelly exchange then. After the GAA’s new television deal went public, O’Shea Tweeted the obvious benefits of Gaelic games being glammed up by Sky.

He also noted that association coffers will swell with little filtering to the most important contributors: the players.

“Can’t have a professional organisation and amateur status,” said Kennelly from his AFL perch.

O’Shea agreed, going a step further yesterday by envisaging a time when smaller counties will be forced to amalgamate to compete with “franchise” counties like Dublin and Kerry.

All under the banner of professionalism.

“It will have to. How is it fair that you have some teams that can’t compete? Eventually you can join up a couple of teams and then you have a more competitive environment.

“At the moment you have a few teams that are pissing into the wind every time they go out on the pitch. In my position as a player I don’t like to be saying that about other teams but that’s the reality in the sport at the moment.

“Eventually they will not be able to get the funding or sponsorship that Dublin can get. Mayo, at the moment, we’re not too bad but some teams are struggling. Unless you can compete it is not fair. . .You have to be realistic about the future of the game as well.”

League final
As to last Sunday at Croke Park when Derry, like Dublin before them, were down to 14 men and still Mayo couldn't pull down the shutters, lock up and head off to the league final?

“I’ve thought about it, obviously,” said O’Shea, the star attraction at yesterday’s Electric Ireland minor championship launch.

“It was probably the flattest performance we’ve had for a long time. Very lethargic. I think you don’t have to be one of the players to notice that.

“Even when we were on top, we weren’t very convincing on the ball, which is slightly worrying. I think James [Horan] said after the game, ‘The longer the game would have gone on, the more Derry would have won’ and I think he was right. It’s hard to pinpoint what it was. Something we’ll have to look at. But yeah, just very, very flat.”

Three points up with the extra man, following Fergal Doherty’s dismissal for nailing O’Shea, in the life cycle of this Mayo group they should be able to close the deal playing poorly. His words.

Championship begins in just over a fortnight at Gaelic park, The Bronx (where Donegal's Ross Wherity and Laois exile Brendan Quigley wait to tangle with him and Jason Gibbons).

“At the moment, when we play against 14 men, we’re not doing our jobs. I don’t know why that is. We played Dublin in the league and you wouldn’t have known there was an extra man on our side of the pitch. It’s something we have to work on.”

The black card worries him too. Especially him. He is also the latest footballer to wonder aloud why scoring statistics are being spouted from the GAA's central hub. "I feel I have to be very careful because I would be targeted for black cards. Especially around the middle of the pitch. Obviously I'm a bigger guy. And there are a lot of smaller guys around me. I think everybody is struggling.

Silly statement
"Just because there are higher scores, it doesn't mean the game has improved. That's a silly statement for people to make. The scores have gone up because people aren't tackling but tackling is a part of our game as well. We have some All-Star defenders there so I know we will get it right."

He is learning, maturing. Doherty couldn’t help himself on Sunday. Faced with the exposed mid-section of O’Shea, the veteran buried his younger rival. And walked.

“ I was thinking about it afterwards and if you look back to the Donegal game last year, I made a similar challenge on Frankie McGlynn. And I was thinking there is no way I would ever do anything like that ever again. It’s not worth the risk. You’re more than likely going to go off. It was a big hit by Fergal but I’d rather play the rest of the game than make the hit.”

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