O'Connor hails Ciaran McDonald's influence
By John Harrington
Mayo captain Diarmuid O’Connor says Ciaran McDonald has already made a positive impression since joining James Horan’s management team.
McDonald played with Mayo from 1994 to 2008 and was one of the classiest forwards of his generation.
A childhood hero for O’Connor and team-mates of a similar age, McDonald had instant credibility as soon as he walked into their dressing-room.
“Yeah, definitely,” said O’Connor today at the launch of the 2020 Allianz Leagues.
“When I first started watching football in Mayo, Ciaran was at the height of his career.
“It’s great to have him involved now. He’s already done a lot of work in his own club with underage football. Great experience, great knowledge. I’m looking forward to working with him in the year ahead.
“I’ve only joined in with the panel the last week or two so I haven’t worked with him that much. But I’ve already got little nuggets off him.
“Just talking to the other players, you would hear of them getting advice off him. Anywhere he can offer advice he does and it’s great to have him around.
“I’m looking forward to working with him for the rest of the year.”
O’Connor will start Sunday’s FBD League semi-final against Galway and is keeping his fingers crossed that his 2020 season isn’t as blighted by injury as 2019 was.
“Yeah, it was frustrating, I had a couple of injuries,” he said. “A fractured eye-socket and a fractured wrist and then a couple of muscular injuries. Yeah, it was frustrating missing out and not getting a run of games. I was back fit at the end of the year but it was disappointing the way it finished.”
O’Connor returned for the All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Dublin and is adamant he was 100 per cent fit enough to play in that match.
He’s less certain about exactly what went wrong for Mayo at the start of the second-half when they were blown away by Dublin having more than matched them in the first half.
“It's hard to put your finger on it,” he said. “It's never just one thing, it's 100 different small things.
“We were just a bit flat coming out at half-time for whatever reason. You just can't do that against a side like Dublin and they punished us during that 10 or15 minute spell. Yeah, some lessons learned and just looking forward to the year ahead and moving on.”
A common assessment after Mayo’s defeat to Dublin was that the sun had finally set on a team that had been genuine All-Ireland contenders for most of the decade.
O’Connor doesn’t quite see it like that. He believes competition for places in their panel has never been fiercer and isn’t worried if some pundits think Mayo’s standards have slipped.
“It doesn’t bother us too much, whether they are (saying that). You take everything with a pinch of salt, whether they’re building you up or knocking you down.
“Everyone is different and take their motivation from different places, but myself personally it wouldn’t bother me too much or I wouldn’t read too much into it. I focus on what I can improve on and focus on my own job.”