O'Shea is feeling good and ready for the call

 

It’s been a bit of a struggle injury-wise but Séamus O’Shea is ready to deliver for Mayo, writes IAN O’RIORDAN

THE FIRST if not obvious question being asked of Mayo footballers this week is where were they six years ago, when after the rattle and hum of an epic All-Ireland semi-final they’d beaten Dublin against all the odds – and not just on the scoreboard.

The psychological warfare that ensued before the throw-in, when both teams ran out towards the Hill 16 end, prompting all hell to break loose, was probably won by Mayo too, although given the near complete turnover of both teams in the six years since, it’s unlikely to have any great bearing on the outcome of Sunday’s semi-final.

“Yeah, I was in the Hogan Stand, just down beside the fight, when it kicked off,” says Mayo midfielder Séamus O’Shea. “I remember it well, a great day, great atmosphere at it, and a great day for Mayo football in fairness. Coming back from whatever it was, six or seven points down, it was a great win. Although obviously things didn’t work out afterwards (Kerry easily beat Mayo in the final).”

This time last year O’Shea was Mayo’s first-choice midfielder, along with his brother, Aidan, but a series of injuries to both players has upset that status a little, even if both should still play some role on Sunday. Aidan is also returning from a groin injury, while for Séamus several things have gone wrong since the start of the year, including his hamstrings, quad muscle and groin.

“Sure, it’s been a stop-start season for me,” he says, “but I’m back training now since just before the Down game so I have three or four weeks of work behind me. I’m getting a bit of fitness behind me. They probably were related, I don’t know to be honest, maybe it was a run of bad luck.

“You always want to play. But that’s up to James Horan (the Mayo manager). All I can do is work hard in training. If I’m called upon, it’d be great. But the most important thing is that Mayo get to an All-Ireland final. The quarter-final came too soon but I’ve a few weeks of work under me now and the body is feeling good again.”

O’Shea only has to look to younger brother Aidan for inspiration, as he’s got himself back to match fitness. “To be honest I was in the same position last year. I missed the entire national league with a broken ankle and came back and started in the championship and I felt fine. Aidan was out for three months with a groin injury and he worked very hard to get back, before the Sligo game, and came on and made a difference.”

In the meantime another younger brother, Conor, has also been called into the senior panel. “He’s about the same height as me and on the senior panel since before the Connacht final. He’s 19 this summer and would have been on the minor for the past two years. He was captain for the minor last year and on the U21 team this year. It’s going well for him so far and he’s enjoying it.

“It does make for a bit of a football madhouse, but I’m not at home. I’m living up here in Dublin, and maybe just as well. My parents are big into football (his dad played under-21 for Kerry). Between work, travelling home for training, and trying to get to the gym, I’m not out too much.”

Mayo might still be an evolving team, but O’Shea points towards several important differences to last year, and also the growing backroom team, that now includes team trainer Cian O’Neill, who formerly worked with the Tipperary hurlers, and for the first time Mayo are also working with a sports psychologist, Kieran Shannon.

“I’d know Cian well myself from my time in UL since 2005 with Sigerson football. He’s a very good trainer, a very good coach and he knows his stuff. Anything different is always going to be good as it freshens up the team. Guys have responded well to it. It’s been going well so far.

“Having a psychologist is not something we’d have been all that used to. But he’s a good guy to have around the place, a few talks here and there. He’s very knowledgeable about Gaelic football, knows his stuff, and mental preparation is a big thing nowadays.”

The only missing piece for Mayo, it seems, is team captain Andy Moran, ruled out for Sunday’s game through injury. “He is a big loss to us there’s no doubt about it, but the only thing is we’ve had plenty of notice of it. We’ve had a month to prepare. It’s not as if it happened today or yesterday. We’ve a good panel there and hopefully players will be able to come in and do a job.

“It’s disappointing from Andy’s point of view and we are sickened for him but we have to crack on at this stage. He’s our captain, a real leader for us, and even though he’s injured he’s still in around the place, still giving advice to fellas.”

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