Aidan O'Shea: "If you’re on social media, you have to accept the good with the bad"
BY SHANE STAPLETON
Aidan O’Shea’s sporting interests extend well beyond GAA. Of course, Gaelic football is front and centre for the Breaffy man but there’s little he won’t have an opinion on.
Basketball, naturally, as he just spent a number of months playing for EJ's Sligo All-Stars, while in 2016 he sampled American football in the Toughest Trade.
O’Shea once suggested the idea of a franchise system in GAA, similar to America where different cities host teams for NFL, NBA and NHL.
O’Shea spent a couple of weeks Down Under aged 19, with the words “don’t sign anything” ringing in his ears from his mam and dad. He’s seen Pearse Hanley and younger brother Cian leave his own county for the AFL and thinks there’s little the GAA can do about the flight of young talent.
“No because it comes back to the old question of a guy wanting to play a professional sport, live in Australia, try it out,” says O’Shea. “They’re plucking them from everywhere, it’s not just Gaelic football. I know they’re looking at basketball players in America, kids in Africa, everything. It’s not unique to Ireland, we just see it because we feel we’ve developed these players and lose them.
“Someone sees a good prospect and they disappear. People in Laois might say ‘why do Kerry get more notice when Laois lost Zach Tuohy, and also lost Conor Meredith and Brendan Quigley for a period of time?’ “There wasn’t as much a furore then but now that Kerry are losing players, all of a sudden we need to talk about it more.
“We’ve lost Cian and Pearse, Carlow lost Brendan Murphy. People say Murphy should go because he’s from Carlow, but why should Carlow be any different to Kerry? “I think a bit of balance around the argument (might help), it’s Kerry’s turn at the moment but it will change to someone else.
“Like Conor McKenna in Tyrone. It’s only a small quantity of players, I don’t think it’s as big an issue as people think.”
It’s the level of detail in his answer that prompts us to ask about his interest in sports. “It’s not just GAA, obviously I love GAA and am obsessed with it. But I’m sports-mad to be honest, if you want to talk about any sport I’ll have an opinion on it. “You can go to cricket, anything you wants and I’ll have something to say about it.”
Soon enough, the topic of inter-county players on social media is brought up. O’Shea, like many players, has a profile and it leaves him open to abuse just like Meath goalkeeper Paddy O’Rourke.
As you try to recall the scenario that saw the Skyrne stopper targeted, O’Shea jumps in: “He got sent off for charging (Westmeath’s) Kieran Martin and retweeted some messages he got. “I don’t think it's (abuse) an issue. It’s like anything. If you’re on social media, you have to accept the good with the bad. You're going to get stick from a few people, not playing well in a game.
“You’ll get good things when you do play well. You have to be selective too, you can go and search your name, not even your Twitter handle, and find ‘Shane Stapleton is a useless f****** journalist’ but that’s your decision to go look at that. “If they use your Twitter handle, then that’s more direct and you have to deal with it yourself. But if you go looking for it, it’s your own problem. If you can’t handle it, get off it.”
Since James Horan took over in late 2011, Mayo have firmly established themselves among the highest fliers. The six-time Connacht title winner has been there throughout, the lightning rod for all the good and bad things said about a side that are still trying to rid their ‘nearly men’ status. Just like Joe Canning with Galway and Michael Murphy in Donegal, the question of O’Shea’s positioning in the team recurs.
The big Breaffy man in the square makes Mayo too predictable, being one such suggestion. Tactical and performance analysis is not something he gets hung up on. “No, not about that, I genuinely don’t really care when it’s about how I play. People are making a commentary on certain aspects of how we play but they might not understand the implications of why we’re doing a certain thing.
“It might be very subtle or something we’ve decided to do to get a benefit somewhere else to win this game. It doesn’t really bother me from a gameplan perspective of me, because I know what I’m doing from a team perspective. “Could Aidan O’Shea be better utilised in another position? Maybe, like, maybe it’s a fair assessment. Maybe that’s not beneficial overall in terms of what we want to do. So it could be a fair comment but it doesn’t bother me.”
Strength and conditioning coach Ed Coughlan wrote a piece last year about the amount of time spent commuting by Mayo players, compared with Dublin who might have their training session completed before the Connacht men have even walked onto the pitch.
The nub of the article being: "until Mayo’s students settle for courses in NUIG and GMIT, and their bankers, accountants, teachers and engineers move home to make a crust, they won’t be winning the All-Ireland."
“I think Donegal and ourselves are the two biggest suggested,” says O’Shea. “I’m not sure how many Donegal have living home and away, but we’re averaging between eight and 15 at times up in Dublin.
“It’s just something we have to deal with, we can’t change it, it’s always going to exist. Maybe there’s things we can do to help it but boys want to do things in their careers, whatever it is, so jobs are up in Dublin. It’s hard to change that, it’s the economic landscape.”
The All-Ireland summit has still to be scaled, with Stephen Rochford’s side first hoping to regain their Connacht title from Galway. Unsurprisingly, only one thing will amount to a successful 2017.
“Well a successful year for us would be to win the All-Ireland. We won five-in-a-row in Connacht, got caught badly last year, and that’s definitely the aim right now to get that back.
“We know where we’ve been the past couple of years, we know we haven’t come right the end of it. A successful year for us would only be winning it, really.”