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Vaughan: 'I feel we are in a good place'

Can Mayo end their wait to lift the Sam Maguire? GAA.ie goes behind the scenes with both goalkeeper David Clarke and midfielder Donal Vaughan ahead of the Connacht side's 2016 GAA All-Ireland Football Final showdown with Dublin this Sunday (September 18) at 3.30pm! #DUBvMAY

By Cian O’Connell

Nearly a decade on the inter-county beat Donal Vaughan is completely aware of the highs and lows that remain central to the epic Mayo football journey.

Beaten by Galway in June Mayo have recovered stitching a fine winning sequence together. Fermanagh, Kildare, Westmeath, Tyrone, and Tipperary have all been toppled.

Another All Ireland Final appearance beckons and Vaughan is well placed to determine the mood of a county that is usually gripped by all matters Green and Red.  “Yeah, look I’ll get the plug in straightaway, I’m in the retail business so I suppose I get to gauge the mood,” Vaughan chuckles.

“I’m meeting people all the time. I think people are still quite positive. They’re very excited. Any time a team gets to the final in fairness, you would argue that you have a 50/50 chance in fairness. Maybe pundits and everybody else is righting us off. We’ve a great chance and there’s positive vibes out there definitely within the county.”

How difficult is it in the weeks leading into crucial games dealing with the public? “I think I’m fairly in a bubble at the moment anyway. But most people are positive in fairness. It’s very rare that you’ll get someone who will be negative to your face.

“They might try to knock another player which I wouldn’t have much time for either, in fairness. Usually either you can agree with them and just move on or you can hit them with a couple of facts and figures and they’d usually start to backtrack but most people in fairness who call in are fairly positive.

“It’s a balance. My role now is slightly changed so it’s a balance between being upstairs managing accounts payable, doing a lot of the marketing stuff as well.

Donal Vaughan during the All Ireland Semi Final win.

Donal Vaughan during the All Ireland Semi Final win.

“I suppose I would oversee a lot of stuff, some of the rota and stuff, with my sister. It’s kinda half and half (office and shop floor) but then the week of the final, even two weeks out you are definitely going to be more upstairs.

“What I did previously was I did a bit of farming. My Dad, he’s not a full-time farmer, but he has a farm so I was going feeding cattle and stuff, but that wouldn’t have been my normal routine. I wanted to keep busy. I probably won’t do that this time because I’ve enough to keep me going. I mightn’t be on the floor as much or I’ll mix around the shops.”

Having played in the 2012 and 2013 Final defeats against Donegal and Dublin will Vaughan alter his approach in any significant way? “There’s nothing really that springs to mind,” Vaughan admits. “That’s probably the biggest difference that I’ll keep my routine. There’s nothing that jumps out.

“You’ll probably look at it and see if you can tweak it somewhere. I suppose one thing you’re probably doing now that you mightn’t have done. Mindfulness is a big word that is thrown around now, being able to switch off a little bit more.

“We would be encouraged to do it and we’d do a little bit of that, a small bit of meditation so that’s something that I’m doing now that maybe I wasn’t doing. Whether it’s just being able to switch off from work or from football and stuff. I suppose that’s more of a trend than anything.”

In last year’s drawn Semi-Final against Dublin Vaughan suffered a serious shoulder issue, but still managed to line out in the replay.

“I tore my AC joint as well. It can be a six week injury in normal circumstances. It’s four to six weeks to get back playing pain free. That game was on a Sunday so it was six days and five days to when I had to train to show that you were ready to go.

“In fairness it was the medical team that went to Santry to Colm Fuller. He obviously he had a lot of experience, he was the Munster physio previously so he had an awful lot of experience with shoulder injuries. There was a girl, Edel Canning as well, she does nothing else but shoulders.

“The decision really should never really be with the player. The decision should be with the medical team. If they clear you fit, I know it’s a bit of a balance but if they clear you fit.

"On the Friday I would have done a fitness test with them catching ball over your shoulders, falling on your shoulder just to make sure it was right. On the Monday I went in and my shoulder was killing me and they were like ‘it’s not too bad, it’s sound, it’s grand’. They’ve seen an awful lot worse shoulder injuries.”

It was a painful week of rehabilitation. “I went to Santry on the Monday or Tuesday, came down and then I think I went up to Dublin on the Wednesday or the Thursday for the game and stayed up there so I was in Santry two or three times a day then so I was literally doing nothing else, but rehab and getting treatment.

“There was actually two physios working on me at some stages but going back to your question, do I regret it? I felt I was doing quite well in the game. I may have conceded two points or something like that, but I actually felt I was well in the game.

Donal Vaughan suffered a shoulder injury against Dublin last year.

Donal Vaughan suffered a shoulder injury against Dublin last year.

“I had an awful lot of possessions in fairness. I was taken off before half time, but I felt I made a positive contribution to the game in fairness. I think we were 10 all at half time so I certainly had no regrets about that.”

Always renowned and regarded as a versatile player Vaughan has occupied a string of different roles in 2016. “I’d say I’ve played in every line for Mayo to be fair, I played full-forward this year in the FBD, I was delighted with that one,” Vaughan laughs.

“Goalie now is the next one! Yeah, midfield, half back certainly but I think ye’d agree yourselves that the way the game is gone, that middle eight, half backs, midfield, half forward, it’s a very, very similar type of player that plays in them positions and even sometimes the role you’re playing isn’t dissimilar because if you’re playing against a team that has four forwards, what are the other two players then?

“Are they midfielders or are they forwards? Even you have corner forwards playing as sweepers and stuff so it’s the way the game is gone.”

The decider carries all sorts of interesting possibilities according to Vaughan. “To win any final you are going to have to play well so, yeah, I feel we are in a good place in fairness,” is Vaughan’s assessment.

“My body feels good. If you look at the team overall, early on, it is just the way it happened but we had a good few injuries as well and I missed the first round of the Championship, but we were missing a good few players.

"Like the competition, bar Ger Cafferkey, Ger is the only long term injury. Everybody else is ready to go. There’s nothing like a final, fellas are not going to be feeling knocks. Genuinely there’s no one carrying knocks, everyone is in a good position.

“At the start of the year if you’d asked us we would have liked to have taken the direct route and not lose a game. That’s not the way it transpired. I suppose the one thing that would be a positive on our own point of view is that normally when we learn our lesson it’s August or September and you’ve to wait six or seven months to try to right the wrongs or even just to start again whereas this time it was three weeks.

“We lost to Galway. We were facing an uphill battle, we didn’t know who we were going to get and it made us look at ourselves, management, players, what were we doing, were we working hard enough?

“I suppose we focused on little things, getting to training that little bit earlier, working on our skills, simple things. Our attitude and our workrate in that game just wasn’t near the standard we’ve set for ourselves. In the second half we got lessons. In every game we’re playing so far, we’re learning all the time.”