Diarmuid O’Connor has been named Mayo captain for the 2019 season and to say it could be a masterstroke from James Horan is an understatement.
The Ballintubber man might not have been many peoples choices as captain and that is not a reflection on himself. With names like Keith Higgins, Andy Moran, Lee Keegan, Aidan O’Shea and indeed, Cillian O’Connor, you would not have been blamed for thinking that the younger O’Connor may be out the picture.
However, it’s a decision by James Horan that makes sense for a number of reasons and no doubt will have given Mayo supporters a lift following back-to-back defeats int he Allianz Football League.
O’Connor is one of the calmest footballers out there. He rarely looks fazed and almost ghosts through games unattended such is his quiet nature.
If Mayo are to make a comeback this season and be there or thereabouts at the business end of the season then they will need that calming influence across the pitch.
Time and time again, the Westerners have fallen at the final hurdle and you could argue that if they relaxed a touch more then they may have beaten Dublin. The reason Dublin came out on top in 2017 final was that they finished stronger, but the also closed the game out at their pace, while Mayo looked forever frantic throughout the game.
O’Connor’s calming influence and relaxed nature could be key to Mayo’s revival in 2019.
It must be said that he has picked up a few red cards along the way, but more often than not O’Connor is the calmest individual on a football pitch.
Leads By Example
You won’t see Diarmuid O’Connor lie down to the opposition. He may not be the biggest man on the field, but more often than not he plays the biggest game.
Mayo exited the Championship last year after a shock defeat to Kildare following the ‘Newbridge or Nowhere’ scandal. However, despite the defeat, O’Connor was able to leave Kildare with his head held high following a trojan performance that on a different day would have driven Mayo to victory.
— Michael Corry (@corry_10) October 20, 2018
When Mayo won the All-Ireland U21 title in 2016, O’Connor was their go-to guy. He scored 1-1 in a memorable semi-final with Dublin in a game that many thought they would lose.
Ballintubber won the county title this year and made it all the way to the Connacht final. O’Connor was Ballintubber’s driving force throughout and kicked a monstrous point in the dying minutes to hand them victory in their county final win over Breaffy.
You know that on the big occasion, Diarmuid O’Connor can be relied upon to step up because he has done so, time and time again.
O’Connor will play midfield for Mayo this year because he has to, it is his best position.
With one of the best engines in the country and a desire to leave everything on the field, his ability to get up and down the field is vital. Having a man of his calibre driving the Mayo ship from a more central position is exactly what they need.
In terms of captaincy, I believe playing in a more central role with the added tag of being team leader will only bring the best out of this young man.
O’Connor has packed a lot into his five years on the Mayo senior panel. He’s played in two All-Ireland finals, won a U21 title and picked up two Young Footballer of the Year gongs.
At just 24, it may seem young to hand him such a prestigious role in a team littered with All-Stars and icons, however, not many are like Diarmuid O’Connor.
The fact that he’s been selected as captain of this Mayo team is a testament to that.