Diarmuid O'Connor honoured to captain Mayo
By Cian O'Connell
Injury means Diarmuid O'Connor won't start Mayo's Connacht Championship opener against New York at Gaelic Park, but the Ballintubber clubman is delighted to be captaining the green and red in 2019.
O'Connor was a key figure as Mayo claimed Allianz Football League glory in the spring and significant expectation is attached to James Horan's team once more.
Was O'Connor, an All Ireland Under 21 winner in 2016, expecting to be awarded the captaincy?
“I wasn’t, no," O'Connor says. "It’s a great honour to captain such a great bunch of lads, but not a whole lot has changed.
"I still have my few things that I have to work on and yeah, I just kind of focus on that. I didn’t know what to expect when I was named as captain, but anyway, nothing has really changed for me."
There is no added pressure according to O'Connor. “Not really, no," O'Connor states. "Just pressure to nail my own game and what I need to improve on more so but yeah, nothing has changed too drastically so far anyway, just focusing on my own game and trying to improve all the time.
“All the lads would help each other out. I’d be talking to Cillian, we’d be helping each other out more about our own games more than being captain or anything like that so it’s not something we’d talk too much about, the captaincy."
Having exited the 2018 All Ireland Championship at the Round Three Qualifiers stage it was difficult for O'Connor to watch the rest of the footballing year unfold.
“Yeah, it was extremely disappointing being out so early in the summer," O'Connor admits.
"I didn’t have a whole lot of time to think about it. I was out playing football for McBride’s in Chicago. The competition was very good out there, it was a high standard.
"I was kind of focusing on that and catching the games online on the laptop which was kind of strange watching, but not being involved. But, yeah, it’s gone now and just looking ahead to this year."
O'Connor, who subsequently won a Mayo SFC title with Ballintubber, enjoyed his stint in Chicago.
“Yeah, it was a quick turnaround," O'Connor remarks about leaving immediately following Mayo's Newbridge loss to Kildare. "The deadline for transfers was only two days after so they rang me and at first I didn’t really want to go, but the more I thought about it, there was no point feeling sorry for myself at home.
"I just went over and really enjoyed it and, as I said, the standard of football was really high over there so it was good."
The League title ensures the Mayo supporters are loaded with hope again. Is it hard to shut out the hype? “Yeah, it always is," O'Connor replies. "The Mayo supporters are unbelievable and they live for football.
"It’s hard to completely shut it out, but I don’t see any harm in getting involved and it’s nice to see how much it meant to the supporters.
"As I said, as soon as we got back to the dressing room, we celebrated that night, but we were already looking ahead and training then two or three days later and the League was gone and we were already looking ahead to seeing where we can improve. There’s always talk around Mayo football no matter what stage of the year it is or what happens, they love football."