Diarmuid O’Connor is looking forward to getting his sixth season with Mayo underway having recently returned from an extended break ahead of the Allianz Leagues.
Mayo have a tough start if they are to retain their Division One title with Donegal (away) and Dublin (home) proving to be formidable opposition in the opening two weeks.
However, before all of that, their attention is firmly focused on the FBD League where they will face old rivals, Galway, this weekend in Castlebar.
O’Connor claims he is available for selection, however, he is unlikely to feature given that he only recently rejoined the panel. One man who is sure to feature for James Horan’s side is influential midfielder, Tom Parsons.
Parsons suffered a horrific knee injury against Galway in the 2018 Connacht Championship before making a brief return in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Dublin. This Sunday, however, marks the Charlestown Sarsfield’s man’s return to the Mayo starting lineup.
Many believed that Parsons career was over following the injury but he’s primed and ready for inter-county action in 2020 and O’Connor paid tribute to his teammate describing him as “unbelievable”.
“Ever since the injury happened, Tom has been working to get back,” O’Connor said at the Allianz League Launch 2020.
“He’s unbelievable, doesn’t leave any stone unturned. To be honest, a lot of people would have said he’d never play on a football pitch again for his club, never mind his county.
“The work that fella has put in behind-the-scenes has been unbelievable. He’s been training well the last few weeks. It’ll be great to see him back on the pitch this weekend.”
“There’s a lot of leaders in that dressing room and Tom is just one of them. He’s a great leader on and off the pitch, just giving advice wherever he can.”
While one Mayo legend returns to the playing field, another has come back into the setup in a coaching capacity. Namely, Ciaran McDonald, one of the county’s greatest ever footballers.
McDonald grabbed plenty of headlines during his storied playing career and news of his involvement with James Horan’s backroom team was met with glee out west.
O’Connor is looking forward to working with someone whom he previously described as a hero of his growing up.
“When I first started watching football in Mayo, Ciaran was at the height of his career.
“It’s great to have him involved now. He’s already done a lot of work in his own club with underage football. Great experience, great knowledge. I’m looking forward to working with him in the year ahead.”
While McDonald’s on-field persona was considered somewhat larger-than-life, he’s known for being a quiet and reserved individual off the field.
O’Connor feels it’s great to have a legend such as McDonald around giving players advice where needed. While he isn’t one for talking inside the dressing room, his input with the players in a one-on-one capacity is seen as a huge positive heading into the season.
“I’ve only joined in with the panel the last week or two so I haven’t worked with him that much. But I’ve already got little nuggets off him.
“Just talking to the other players, you would hear of them getting advice off him. Anywhere he can offer advice he does and it’s great to have him around.”
“So far it’s been more one on one stuff. He wouldn’t be one of the biggest talkers in the dressing-room so far but that might change as the year goes on.
“I’ve only been there a couple of weeks so I haven’t worked that closely with him yet but I’m looking forward to working with him for the rest of the year.”