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Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor thankful for Covid-enforced break

Mayo star Cillian O’Connor is feeling fresher than ever ahead of Saturday’s All-Ireland final showdown with Dublin.

O’Connor was in sensational form in Mayo’s semi-final encounter with Tipperary, scoring 4-9 in an incredible individual display.

However, this Saturday should prove to be a much greater ask for O’Connor and co. who will attempt to put an end to Dublin’s All-Ireland dominance.

The Ballintubber man has featured in four All-Ireland finals to date but admitted that he preferred the lack of fan-fare around this year’s finale over the usual hype.

“The quieter approach would be my preference anyway. I know the craic of the build-up over a few weeks is energising and the country loves it – you know painting anything that moves red and green and all of that,” O’Connor told the Irish Independent.

Taking positives from the lockdown

Gaelic football was of course put on hold during almost the entirety the summer due to the coronavirus pandemic, with club an county players getting an extended break.

While the Mayo forward missed the Championship dearly during the summer lockdown, the enforced break helped him to get back to his best physically and mentally.

“I definitely think there’s a silver lining to it, there’s definitely positives in it. It’s the same for lots of other club players and county players.

“I’m not alone here, but if you have a long club season and if you have surgery, if you’re unlucky, or if your rehab is delayed until Christmas or January, then suddenly you have the first round of the Championship in your diary.

“Then it’s a countdown, it’s a race to the 13th of May or it’s a race to the first of June or whatever and your mind is already subtracting weeks from that to get back and to get fit.

“It was nice to be off that hamster wheel for a little while and to feel physically good, feel healthy, prioritising something else as well for a change, prioritising people’s….you know, public health, with the Covid pandemic.

“It was nice to get perspective that, ‘Jesus, don’t take yourself too seriously, it’s not that important, there’s a pandemic here that’s shutting down the world, you can stop talking about Mayo for a few minutes’.

“So I think we all enjoyed that break and I think we were refreshed from it,” O’Connor said.

‘Nothing to gain from analysing past losses’

Mayo have lost three All-Ireland finals to the Dubs since 2013, each time by just a single point, but O’Connor was confident that the weight of history wouldn’t drag the team down.

“I think there’s been such a huge turnover of players on both sides. You know better than me how many players will be playing the next day that were there in 2016 or in the semis in 2015.

“I’m thinking of a few players on our squad who wouldn’t name the Mayo team from the 2016 finals, let alone the Dublin lads.

“So there’s boys who are so caught up in this season and going week to week, the younger players certainly won’t be bogging themselves down with it.

“For ourselves then who have maybe been around a bit longer, I don’t think there’s anything from those games we can analyse that we haven’t already,” O’Connor commented.

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