Aidan O'Shea didn't have to convince Stephen Rochford to allow him to participate in the Toughest Trade. On the contrary, it was Rochford, an employee of AIB, who first alerted O'Shea to the proposal.
Rochey works for AIB and they came to him and he came to me. He came to with it just before Christmas. Barring injury, he said, 'I've no problem with you doing it.'
O'Shea was in Dublin to promote his participation in the programme which last year featured Jackie Tyrrell, David Bentley and Aaron Kernan. However, he can say little about the venture. As of now, he doesn't know where he's headed and the nature of the challenge.
I don't know at the moment. I haven't been told. I would like to know but I don't know. I'm not going to say I'm an expert on American football now. I follow basketball a lot more than American football but probably over the last couple of years with it being a lot more accessible on Sky, I've followed it a lot more. I went to the Jets-Giants in New York over Christmas so I like watching it.
But I've no details (on the show). You can look through my phone...
Any position that he'd fancy trying?
Tight end, possibly. Gronkowski with the Patriots. Olson with the Panthers. So, yeah, that'd be nice. It's a different ball game. Even the pure technique of what they're doing. I'm going to be... small (laughs) let's be honest about it. Looking at some of the weights. Boys my size, some of them might have 20kgs on me, which is just insane. They're freaks of nature.
In a GAA context, O'Shea has often been regarded as a freak of nature himself. The question of how GAA players match up with professional athletes was put back on the table by Kieran McGeeney recently.
McGeeney, a man who, rightly or wrongly, has a reputation for monkish self-discipline, has long pushed back against the view that 'over-training' is a major problem at inter-county level. He dismissed the notion that GAA players could be considered 'elite athletes'.
Kilkenny hurler Eoin Larkin didn't think much of McGeeney's assessment, describing the Armagh manager as 'an arsehole' on twitter. This tweet was 'liked' by, among others, Tony Kelly, Colin Ryan and ex-Offaly great Joe Dooley.
I thought it before but he jus sealed the deal.what an Arse hole https://t.co/XB2U0frzQI
— Eoin Larkin (@11larky) January 22, 2016
O'Shea is more emollient than Larkin though he ultimately confirms that he can't run with the notion that Dublin, Kerry and Mayo players can't be considered 'elite'.
We'd have to try and get his definition of an elite athlete from him first. I saw Eoin Larkin wasn't too impressed with his summation on it. Obviously, Kieran has had experience training with Conor McGregor. Everyone has a different definition on what elite is. From my own point of view, I would consider Gaelic footballers... Jesus, they're fairly elite athletes, seeing the Dublin lads, the Kerry lads, Mayo lads, they'd consider themselves elite athletes. It'd be wrong of me to say otherwise.
Inevitably, matters turn to a 'state of the game' discussion on Gaelic football. A few years back, after Mayo slaughtered Leitrim in the Connacht championship, David Brady floated the idea that smaller counties amalgamate. Early in the 2014 season, O'Shea himself suggested it was inevitable that smaller counties would seek to amalgamate in the hope of producing a competitive entity.
I don't think it's (amalgamating counties) that outlandish really. I see things about Division 4 teams going into a 'B' championship. I think teams would like to take part in a competition that they have a chance of winning. And maybe I'm wrong but if there was amalgamation of a county or two then they might have an opportunity of winning. I think that's better than taking part in a competition when you know you're not going to win it.
I think it makes it more competitive, more marketable, bigger games, less players playing so in it so there's more chance of professionalism.
On the question of Mayo coming up short on the biggest stage every year, O'Shea is surprisingly unguarded about his thoughts on the matter. His answer suggests that Mayo may seek to modulate their gung-ho approach to championship games. A more cagey, box clever approach on the model of Tyrone or a modern day Kerry may be in order.
When we've lost, we've conceded bad goals in the last couple of years. We need to tighten up at the back. We need to manage our games better. Regardless of whether it's the first minute or last minute we seem to play the same way. I don't think other teams do that. We need to be a bit more game smart. A lot of the things that we're doing are very, very good. But at certain times in games, we need to just hold the fort.
Stephen Rochford told us on Monday that he brought Crossmaglen's Tony McEntee into the fold because he wouldn't be 'emotionally invested' in Mayo's quest for an All-Ireland. Has he offered any insight into how Mayo can shore up their defence?
Tony's just been taking the training. I'm sure his influence will increase, and I'm sure if you were coming in as manager of Mayo, the defensive structure might be one of the things you'd look at.