Captain O'Connor revels in Mayo's League triumph
By John Harrington
The outpouring of emotion from Mayo players and supporters after the final whistle blew on Sunday’s Allianz Football League Division 1 Final against Kerry vividly captured just how much this win meant to them all.
Since winning the 2001 Allianz League Final, Mayo had contested 10 National Finals in Croke Park and failed to win a single one of them.
So, not surprisingly, this victory was a hugely satisfying one for team captain Diarmuid O’Connor and all his team-mates.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s not very often that we’ve won silverware up here,” said O’Connor after the match.
“For the fans especially, I was delighted. It was a great feeling seeing all them.
“Seeing my family after the game, and getting to celebrate something with them.
“It’s been too long since we’ve been celebrating any silverware. The (last) Connacht championship was four years ago.
“It’s too long for these supporters so hopefully that’s not the last time we’re celebrating this year.”
O’Connor certainly played a captain’s part in Mayo’s victory.
After a quiet first-half he burst into life in the second to score a brilliant goal and two points that proved pivotal to his team’s success.
Lifting the cup meant an awful lot to him, but he was keen to deflect any plaudits that came his way after the match.
“It’s a huge honour,” said O’Connor. “I’m delighted to be captain of such a great bunch.
“Has anything changed? Not really. I’ve just been focusing on my own game, what I can do on the pitch, I’ve just been trying to nail that.
“To be honest, everyone is a leader on the pitch and if you’re in the dressing room before the game or at half-time, you wouldn’t have noticed who the captain was and it showed on the pitch as well. They’re all leaders there, 1-26.”
Mayo’s second-half performance was simply superb yesterday and the win really put the icing on a hugely satisfying campaign that saw them unearth some new faces who should improve the team both in the short as well as long term.
“It’s a great win,” said O’Connor. “Throughout the league, I think we were building and improving on every game. Even the games we lost, I think we did a lot right during the games.
“After every game we reflected and built ahead of the next game and today was no different.
“We just looked at it as round eight in the League and not really so much as a final, big day or special occasion.
“We needed to see what we had to improve on last week and I think we did that, mostly in the second half.
“The first half, we made a few simple errors. We just tweaked a few things then at half-time and it came right thankfully.
“It’s a great win. It means a lot, we’ll celebrate but after tonight we’ll just look straight to the Connacht championship.”