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'A Massive Talent, And Obviously A Huge Loss To Mayo GAA'

Former Mayo footballer, Séamus O’Shea, at the launch of this year’s Electric Ireland Minor Championships. Photo: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
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Séamus O'Shea recalls playing a Mayo schools game against Ballaghderreen some time around 2004. Standing next to him at the throw-in was Pearce Hanley.

"I'd never come across him before," says O'Shea, speaking at the launch of this year’s Electric Ireland Minor Championships.

"I got absolutely cleaned for the first 20 minutes, not realising who he was. I found out pretty quickly after that."

The following year, O'Shea and Hanley were teammates as Mayo reached the All-Ireland minor final, losing to Down.

In 2007, Hanley's Mayo senior career started and ended. John O'Mahony gave him his debut in the qualifiers against Cavan but by that stage, there was already talk of a move Down Under.

Hanley signed with Aussie rules side Brisbane Lions and set off on one of the great Irish AFL careers, playing 169 times for the Lions and the Gold Coast Suns.

Pearce Hanley, Mayo, in action against Kevin Duffin, Down. 2005 All-Ireland Minor Football Championship Final, Mayo v Down, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit; Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

"Pearce was a massive talent, and obviously a huge loss to Mayo," says O'Shea

"It's hard to know where he would have played. You'd love to have had him. He could have played anywhere from six, midfield, to centre-forward and done a job for us.


"When he came back with Ballaghaderreen that time for a couple of county championships, I think he played at number six, was a really good physical presence, a good distributor, made good decisions.

"It never worked out, and he never made his way back. I'm not sure where he would have fitted in but we certainly would have found a slot for him alright."

Along with O'Shea, there were several players on that Mayo minor team - the likes of Aidan Campbell, Chris Barrett, Ger Cafferkey, Tom Cunniffe and Tom Parsons - who would on to have good senior careers.


28 August 2005; Kieran Brennan, Kerry, in action against Peter Collins, right, and Ger Cafferkey, Mayo. Minor Football Championship Semi-Final, Kerry v Mayo, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit; Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

"There's a little bit of unknown there [at minor level] in terms of where you rank," says O'Shea.


"Having been there the year before, a lot of those players were new. A good few of them were late enough developers. Obviously, a lot of them went on to have brilliant senior careers. My recollection is that it wasn't immediately apparent that we had a brilliant team. As it transpired, we had a lot of talent.

"Pearce was a year younger than me, so that was his first year at minor. I think he didn't start the first couple of games and then he worked his way into the team."


Mayo lost that year's Connacht minor final to Galway, but redeemed themselves in the All-Ireland quarter-final, where they beat Armagh, and the semi-final where they defeated Kerry.


On the day they beat Kerry by a point in Croke Park, the Kingdom seniors defeated Cork to reach the All-Ireland final.

"That was a massive occasion," says O'Shea.

"We were the better team, a bit ahead and they made a bit of a comeback. As the crowd starts to fill in, you can sense the atmosphere. They were urging Kerry on, and had the opportunity to level it up towards the end. It was brilliant, that experience."


25 September 2005; Mayo players watch Down lift the Tom Markham cup. All-Ireland Minor Football Championship Final, Mayo v Down, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit; Damien Eagers/ SPORTSFILE

The Breaffy man - the older brother of Aidan and Conor O'Shea - scored two points off the bench in the semi-final for Mayo. That performance, and the ones which followed over the next month in training, were not enough to convince the management team that he should start the final against Down. Mayo lost the decider by 10 points.

"I was heartbroken," says O'Shea about not getting to start.

"I was injured all that summer. I started the first couple of games, then had a bad injury, ended up missing a couple of months of training. I made it back for the Kerry game, came in and kicked a couple of points, which was great.

"I obviously didn't do enough in advance of the final. I think I was in early on in the final, but to be honest, by the time I came in, they were well on top at that stage.

"Down were too good for us that day, and were full value for the win. That was a very good team. Marty Clarke went on to have a great career in the AFL and play with Down. James Colgan was playing midfield for them, and those two were probably their best players.

"I do remember going to play Down in a challenge match early the following year in an U21 campaign, and it being very competitive. A lot of the same guys were involved, and I felt we were a lot closer [to them than we'd looked in the minor final]."

Eight months after losing the minor final, Mayo became All-Ireland U21 champions for the first time in 23 years. In the final against Cork, O'Shea started in midfield

"For me personally, I was disappointed as I'd had a poor minor career," says O'Shea.

"I came on as a sub in one game in 2004. I was injured throughout 2005, and didn't play as much as I'd have liked. There was a determination coming away from it that you'd get back there again, go on to play U21 or senior.

"At the time, I felt like it was the start of something rather than the end of it. I would have approached it that way and worked very hard over the next few months to be involved with the U21s.

"It only encouraged me to stay at it and improve."

See Also: Mayo's Oisin Mullin Has Already Got 'A Few Nicknames' At AFL Club

zach tuohy oisin mullin mayo geelong afl



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Brought to you by Electric Ireland

This article was brought to you by Electric Ireland, sponsor of the Camogie & GAA Minor Championships. #ThisIsMajor

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