This summer has been very different for Aidan O’Shea due the absence of intercounty football for Mayo, although he is enjoying being involved in the club environment with Breaffy GAA. Speaking on Basketball Ireland's Bench Talk this week, the Breaffy and EJ-Sligo All Stars player lifted the lid on life during lockdown.
“Being back with the club has been a really nice way of getting back at it. Usually I wouldn’t have this consistency with the club, so it’s great to be back amongst the boys. It’s probably a change for the guys, they are not used to having us around during the week. It’s a nice change to be honest. For my club, you know, for the last obviously ten, twelve years they probably see me for less than ten sessions a year and so being able to be with them literally every training session is a great change. Obviously it can be very beneficial for the group as well. If you are trying to work on something if you are away it’s very difficult to bed that in, so it’s been really good and it can be only very beneficial.”
O’Shea has been keeping up-to-date with the NBA Bubble and is looking forward to the games returning. He finds their contact tracing testing interesting and doesn’t think that GAA players would be comfortable with the NBA approach, as he explained on Basketball Ireland’s ‘Bench Talk’.
“It is probably something that we haven’t talked enough about yet. There does seem to be that stigma around somebody that has Covid-19. Whether that is a county footballer, or somebody that is walking down the street. I think the impact of an intercounty footballer or even a club footballer at this moment in time who potentially tests positive to Covid-19, it has a real knock-on impact to maybe their career, or where they are working, or there this kind of scaremongering that will happen. I’m not sure the players would be very comfortable about the way the NBA are doing it announcing that they have Covid-19 especially as amateurs. It is probably something that we need to do a bit more thinking about how we go about that, because the question is out there. Like if somebody on our team gets Covid-19 and you can go through all the contact tracing, would another team be comfortable playing, what are the implications to the team and stuff like that. There are elements to that we don’t know and we probably won’t know until it happens.”
O’Shea explained how he was first introduced to basketball and how prominent the sport was in Mayo.
“Basketball was big in Mayo when I was growing up. At the time in Castlebar, we had two different clubs. You had big town league going every Saturday morning and it was very much kind of part of life in Castlebar and obviously Ballina. There wasn’t many kids who didn’t play basketball. It has kind of shifted now, but back then basketball was just a part of the way things are.”
O’Shea is one of a number of GAA players who have basketball experience and he’s used those transferrable skills to good effect when playing Gaelic Football. He highlighted some of the benefits.
“Having decent hands, spatial awareness, hand-eye coordination, stuff like that. Seeing things that people who hadn’t played basketball might not have seen probably would have been a strength that I would have had from playing all those years.”
O’Shea believes that GAA has evolved massively during his time as a player.
“It has got very tactical and technical in terms of team's approaches. I think the key element prior to ten years ago, you know, possession was probably not held in the same regard as it is now. Possession is key now. Turnover and where we lose possession and that kind of stuff is thought about a lot more. In terms of defence like, it’s not just one-on-one defence at the back now. You’re talking about different structures. Forcing people away from the middle and then you look at it from an attacking perspective and correlation - you look at Dublin and the way they are smart around their screens and how they use the runner’s body effectively to create space for shooters. There has been a lot more thought put into what people are doing defensively and attackingly and I think there has definitely been an influence from the basketball side of things.”
With players keen to avoid turning the ball over and wanting to shoot high percentages, analytics has become a huge thing in basketball and it’s increasingly the case in GAA. Speaking on the danger of recycling the ball too much until that shot is on in GAA, compared to the shot clock element in basketball, O’Shea said:
“I think that that’s the thing. The conservative piece is the concern. You might lose that element of individualism of the game. This constant - wait and wait until the high percentage shot. You know, you don’t want to be the one to bring down the overall team percentage. I think you’re right, some of that is in there at the moment. Maybe we have gone a little bit too far from before, where we were a bit more carefree and turning over the ball a bit too much, to being too focused on the right shot every single time. As you say, I think that maybe it is something that we will have to look at in time. Maybe we can’t go across half way and I don’t know how you put in a time clock, because what’s the ideal amount of time you would have for a Gaelic Football team and then there’s the referee element. There’s a couple of things there that would be difficult, but it is something that maybe we need to be futureproofing for.”
O’Shea went back to play basketball in 2016 and joined EJ-Sligo All-Stars basketball club. He was on the bench injured when his team reached the President’s Cup final and lost out by 10 points to Neptune basketball club. Speaking about why he made the return back to basketball, O’Shea said:
“There was a couple of things. We lost in the Club Championship quite early with the club, so I had time I suppose first of all and two, I have a grá. I love basketball, I love playing, I love watching it. I hadn’t played it properly since first year of college, where I played a bit of D1 in Dublin and I just wanted to get back and try it out. You know, I talk about it being a kid again and just getting out playing the sport”.
While he is not playing basketball at the minute, he admitted he may make an appearance back on the courts in the future. Watch this space.
Episode 8 of Bench Talk featuring former NBA and Irish international basketball player, Pat Burke, takes place on Wednesday July 29th at 8pm on Basketball Ireland’s social channels.