Mayo are arguably the most confounding team in Gaelic football, with the needlessly epic win over Cork the latest manifestation of that. They are a remarkable team, and manage to conjure high drama by essentially shooting par: they will beat the teams they are expected to, and then they'll hang tough but fail to beat the two sides that are better than them. They haven't won any of their last seven championship games with the Big Two, although they've drawn four, and lost two by a single point.
So they are clearly tough enough to stick with Dublin and Kerry, but consistently fall short of the line. This is generally put down to the lack of a top class forward, in the Dean Rock/Diarmuid Connolly/Paul Geaney/James O'Donoghue mould.
But against Cork on Saturday evening, Cillian O'Connor proved again why it's unfair to exclude him from such esteemed company. He kicked 11 points, more than half of them from play, in a Man of the Match performance to drag his teammates over the line.
That issue came up on yesterday on Second Captains, and Oisin McConville gave his theory as to why O'Connor is so underrated:
He certainly is an underrated footballer. One of the things that people don't appreciate about Cillian O'Connor is the amount of work he puts in off the ball, that a Brogan, a McManus or a Sean Cavanagh, maybe, has to put in. The tackling that he does, because obviously, it's two on three in there all the time.
When the short kick-out was taken by Cork, he was the man who had to go to the first man, and when it's popped over his head he has to go to the second man. He's trying to be in there as a focus for the attack. It's not helped by the fact that Andy Moran is in alongside him. Andy Moran has done really well, he is a good target man, but he doesn't have the legs that Loftus or one of the younger lads would have. But Andy Moran has done well enough to retain his place.
Cillian O'Connor is not helped by the fact he doesn't have enough legs around him in the full-forward line. Plus, the fact they are bringing the sweeper back means it is five against six in the forward line. The amount of work he does, and the amount of tackling he does alone, without the important scores he kicks....
...Put Cillian O'Connor in a Dublin team, so he doesn't have to do the work he is doing on the Mayo team, where his only responsibility would be to win win primary possession and kick the ball over the bar. Then we are talking about an absolute superstar.
Monaghan are a very hard working team, but Conor McManus' job in that team is to kick the ball over the bar. You can watch them a thousand times and realise that that is what he has been told to do. Wherever he has to go to do that, whoever he has to take the ball off to do that, whoever he has to bring with him to do that, that is his primary role.
Cillian O'Connor looks like he has four or five roles within that forward line. That makes life so much more difficult for him. But what does that make him as a player? Completely invaluable.
You can listen to the full slot on Second Captains.