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'You Know In The Dressing-Room Or Training That Something Is Happening Here'

'You Know In The Dressing-Room Or Training That Something Is Happening Here'
PJ Browne
By PJ Browne
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Now nine years into his inter-county career, Cillian O'Connor is certainly one of the most experienced players on the Mayo panel. Though, he objects to the suggestion that he's one the elder members of the group.

"There's more senior lads than me now!" says the 28-year-old, speaking during the launch of AIB's sixth year as All-Ireland Senior Football Championship sponsors.

Though Mayo were relegated from Division 1 last weekend, O'Connor and his teammates will not be dwelling on the defeat to Tyrone. There was a quick review and thoughts turned this weekend's clash with Leitrim in the Connacht Championship.

O'Connor missed the game against Tyrone due to "bang" on his quad suffered a week earlier against Galway. He expects to be fit and available for this Sunday afternoon.

Despite dropping down a rung of the league ladder, there is much to be optimistic about for Mayo.

"It's been the strongest turnover or change of new blood in a few years," O'Connor says.

"It's been brilliant. It's great when you see fresh, new faces stepping up. It's the same with every team, they step in for a game or they come on as a sub and they show real potential and suddenly they clean someone in an 'A' versus 'B'.


"You know in the dressing-room or in training that something is happening here. That guy is not just an impact sub or one for the future, he's one for now. I think players are the first ones to know when that starts happening.

"Then you've got the dynamic of the older players coming back and wondering am I being rested now or have I lost my place? That healthy competition is brilliant and it's good craic as well for the squad."

Pictured is Ballintubber and Mayo Footballer Cillian O'Connor at AIB's launch of the GAA All-Ireland Senior Football Championship. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile


Young players like Mark Moran, Oisin Mullin, Tommy Conroy and Eoghan McLaughlin have all made an impact for Mayo.

"To be honest, it's been a natural step up for a lot of them," O'Connor says.


"There hasn't been any holding of hands or sitting them down for deep one on ones. They've come in and the lads I'm thinking of have really settled quite well.


"I suppose you're there as a sounding board if they ever want to chat. And if you know there's something they're constantly getting caught on or things that they're doing really, really well - you have to catch them doing good things as well - I think it's important to let them know, 'Keep doing that'.

"I love talking to young lads, just the energy, the enthusiasm, it's infectious. They've really given a boost to the whole squad.

"I think I've benefited from chatting to the younger guys because maybe when you're analysing games or you might be thinking about opposition or tactics, you've a conversation with one of the young lads who is just high on life to be involved. He's just so gunning for the weekend, a conversation like that can simplify things. Just to go out and enjoy this weekend, these guys aren't over-thinking things."


This year's championship will be the sort not seen in 20 years. Due to Covid-19, a straight knockout format is being used. There is no safety net of the qualifiers.

"There is definitely an element of that over the few years where we've had our backs to the wall and we've had to pull something out, often because of our own doing really," says O'Connor.


"There's probably been a bit too many do or die games early in the summer for our liking. There's players in the group over the last few years who've had to pull big performances out at key stages in the summer and have done that.

"So we'd have no fear of the knockout championship, we've had to live on the edge there a few times over the years. You do learn to enjoy that in a weird way. You get the butterflies a bit more maybe the day before and you know the consequence of defeat here is lights out.

"There is this weird enjoyment in that as well. If we're in that position later in the year or now, there will be lads who'll be relishing that kind of edginess."


Now in their sixth season sponsoring the football county championship and their 30th year sponsoring the club championships, AIB are proud to support some of #TheToughest games there are. In addition to the launch, AIB will soon be releasing their new TV Ad, a fast-paced and upbeat celebration of the 2020 GAA All-Ireland Senior Football Championship. For exclusive content and to see why AIB are backing Club and County, follow us on @AIB_GAA on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Featured image Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

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