GAA Football

Been there, lost that but Cillian O'Connor is determined to end Mayo's losing streak in finals

Cillian O'Connor has scored 29 points in Mayo's nine-game Championship run
Andy Watters

MAYO skipper Cillian O'Connor has scored 29 points in four All-Ireland deciders (including last year's replay) but never won one.

The Castlebar Mitchel's clubman was a losing finalist in 2012, 2013 and last year when Mayo pushed Dublin to a draw on the third Sunday in September only to lose the re-run by a single point.

So he has been around long enough to know that winning Saturday's semi-final against Kerry will count for absolutely nothing if Mayo fluff their lines against the Dubs in the decider in just under three weeks' time.

“I've been involved in really good performances before and been in exhilarating games before and not won so this most pleasing thing is that we came out on top,” said former UUJ student O'Connor after last Saturday's convincing win over Kerry at Croke Park.

O'Connor tagged on half-a-dozen points in Mayo's five-point win. His partnership with Andy Moran and Jason Doherty – who came into his own after O'Connor was black-carded in the second half – has given Mayo an incisive cutting edge that has improved throughout their long-and-winding journey through the Qualifiers.

O'Connor's scores brought his total in this campaign to a whopping 3-59. His tally has been swelled by replays against Roscommon and Kerry and by extra-time against Derry and Cork, but it is another example of his impressive consistency and unflinching determination.

The character Mayo have shown gives them a chance in the final against Dublin but Jim Gavin's three in-a-row chasing side will go into the game as favourites.

O'Connor was one of 10 survivors from the 2012 All-Ireland final who started last Saturday's semi-final replay, but he doesn't expect Mayo's experience of Gaelic Football's grandest occasion to have an automatic impact on September 17.

“A good chunk of us have been here before going down this home straight in the last few weeks of the season,” he said..

“But that experience has to be used and harnessed properly.

“It's not just a thing that, because we've been here before, it'll be easy. We have to use our time over the next three weeks and work on our fitness a little bit.

“We'll have a couple of good sessions and it's good to be involved in these last few weeks of the season.”

Mayo manager Stephen Rochford hinted that a portion of training over the next three weeks will be used to improve Mayo's fitness level. The westerners looked like tiring late in the first half and for a 10-minute spell midway through the second, but the injection of some fresh legs got them comfortably over the line against Kerry.

“I don't think as players we'll change anything,” he said.

“Maybe behind the scenes the management will take lessons from the last couple of All-Ireland finals. I'm sure they'll look at things to keep us focussed on the goal but as players we'll just keep training, try to get better and learn from the mistakes of today.”

Speaking after Saturday's win, manager Rochford was adamant that his side had not “played their All-Ireland final” against Kerry.

“Our shot selection was good but it'll need to be better again to get across the line in three weeks' time,” he said.

“I think there are a number of things that we can improve on so let's see what happens in three weeks. We got 17 scores and left a number behind us and in the first half we had a couple of balls in the final third of the field that we coughed up a little bit easily and it was those sort of errors that we really need to nail down on.”

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