“I don’t think we can beat the top four or five in the country without Cillian O’Connor spearheading the attack.”
Legendary Mayo Gaelic footballer Liam McHale could not overstate the impact that Cillian O’Connor’s absence will have on his county team.
O’Connor is one of the best players in Ireland but has suffered an Achilles tendon injury, with rumours that he will miss the entire championship as a result.
McHale suggested that Mayo would not beat any of the top teams without their talisman in an exclusive interview with Pundit Arena.
Liam McHale starred at Gaelic football and basketball.
“Oh no, not a hope in hell,” was McHale’s response when asked if Mayo can win an All-Ireland without O’Connor.
“I don’t think we can beat the top four or five in the country without Cillian O’Connor spearheading the attack.
“He’s way more than just a scorer. He’s a great defender, tackles with real aggression. We don’t have that sort of strength in depth.
“I believe that even if David Clifford or Sean O’Shea were gone that Kerry would still be a very potent team.
“I believe Dublin would be the same. Cillian O’Connor means so much to Mayo with scoring obviously and all of the other intangibles that he does.
“I don’t think we can beat any of the other top four of five teams without him.”
McHale played in four All-Ireland finals for Mayo.
McHale is now managing Athlone in Westmeath and he explained how O’Connor’s absence will be felt all over the park, as it is not just a scoring threat that he brings to this Mayo side.
“I know he had struggled with injury before but this is a young team, a team that went to the All-Ireland final last year and did very, very well to get there,” he said.
“They’re a team now that needs his experience badly.
“I believe he’s scored somewhere around half the scores that Mayo scored in the league this year so his experience, his leadership, his scoring ability, his tackling ability and his leadership in general because he takes it very, very seriously.
“He demands high standards from his teammates, especially in the forwards. All of that is lost now.”
The extent of O’Connor’s injury is unknown.
There are rumours that O’Connor has torn his Achilles tendon and McHale suggested that if that is the case, he could struggle to return to heights previously reached.
“Nobody seems to know exactly the extent of the injury but if he’s torn his Achilles, he’s out for the season and if he’s torn his Achilles and he’s out for the season at the age he is now and the mileage he has on the clock he’ll do very, very well to get back and be able to play at a high level,” McHale said.
“Having said that I don’t know exactly the extent of the injury. If he has torn his Achilles he’s in big, big trouble the poor fella.”