Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Aidan O'Shea, Fullback

Your correspondent is very confused by the response to Mayo playing Aidan O’Shea at fullback in the All-Ireland against Kerry on Sunday. This tweet from Matt Cooper is typical of the reaction:

“Disaster” is an interesting choice of words here. Any Mayo follower worth his or salt is able to list successive disasters and rate them out of ten going back to 1925 and the All-Ireland lost in a boardroom instead of on the pitch. Where does the playing Aidan O’Shea at fullback stand in this miserable pantheon?

Nowhere. Because it’s not like Mayo lost, is it? Mayo are still in the Championship. Mayo went into that game as 5/2 underdogs, and Matt Cooper is annoyed they didn’t beat Kerry out the gate? Extraordinary.

Malachy Clerkin of the Irish Times reckons 2-6 of Kerry’s 2-14 can be attributed to Donaghy. Maybe so, maybe not. It is, however, a fact that one single point is all Donaghy scored from play. Donaghy scored two goals in the All-Ireland Final of 2007 as Kerry whipped Cork 3-13 to 1-9, but the Cork fullback on that day went on to win an All-Star at fullback that same year.

So having Donaghy score two goals on you in the All-Ireland Final doesn’t cost you an All-Star but having him score one point on you is the reason Mayo didn’t beat Kerry on Sunday? Clear as mud, my Lord.

One of the reasons put forward for Mayo’s playing of Aidan O’Shea being a “disaster” is his incalculable loss out the field. And this doesn’t quite add up either.

Reader, how many previews of Sunday’s game hinged on Kerry’s terror at the havoc Aidan O’Shea was going to cause in among the Kerry backs? Contrast that not-very-high number with the number of times you’ve read about Mayo’s lack of forward quality.

It would seem that in the space of seventy minutes Mayo have gone from lacking a quality forward to having the damn things falling out of the trees – Andy Moran, Cillian O’Connor – the current top scorer in the Championship with 3-52 and counting, by the way – and now Aidan O’Shea, Destroyer of Worlds.

Remember all that stuff you read during the year about Aidan O’Shea being distracted by being on that Toughest Trade TV show, or playing basketball, or having selfies taken with children, or not looking up, or running with his head down and not letting it in? All in your imagination. Nobody ever thought, wrote or podcasted any such thing at all at all. In actual fact, the very sun itself rises from Aidan O’Shea’s not-at-all-fat-perfectly-athletic-in-fact bottom.

Are there questions that could be asked of the Mayo management? You betcha there are questions, but not one of them has anything to do with Aidan O’Shea playing fullback on Sunday. Not one. The very worst you could say about it is that the case is not proven, and if there are problems in the way Mayo set up it’ll take more than a straight swap between Aidan O’Shea and Donie Vaughan to solve them. Up Mayo.