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Cillian O'Connor encouraged about Mayo's emerging talent
By Cian OConnell
A senior inter-county footballer for Mayo since 2011, Cillian OConnors appreciation for the green and red jersey runs deep.
Seven Connacht titles, one Allianz Football League, and a couple of All-Stars have been collected along the way. The memories matter as much as the medals, though, and the current league campaign has brought a bit of joy too.
That is critical for OConnor. Mayo took plenty of positives from the Allianz Football League Division One group games, especially the matches away from Castlebar against Armagh, Roscommon, and Donegal. Yeah, I think so, OConnor says. They could have gone either way some of them, they were pretty tight games. The Armagh game was a draw, it could have easily gone against us.
It is often a chance to spend some time with lads away from the actual pitch. If you go up the day before you get time in the hotel, you get to watch the soccer or the rugby, play pool or table tennis - whatever, just get to know lads which I think is important. I've always enjoyed those away weekends. Like any group they help you come together.
Considering Mayos recent retirements, significant opportunities have been afforded to emerging players in the panel. Hard graft is being rewarded according to OConnor, who is hopeful about returning from injury ahead of Sundays decider against Galway at Croke Park.
It has been great to see lads that this might be their first year or even lads that have put in two, three or four years of work in the squad very much behind the scenes, in what can be a very difficult position when you are in first, OConnor says.
You have to nearly get up to speed, do all the work that everyone else is doing, but you're just not seeing game time at the weekend. It is a credit to a lot of the lads, who went through a year or two of that or more, bided their time and kept getting better.
Their performances now are testament to their own hard work. Those couple of away games we had were a great experience for those fellas. They are the ones driving standards and driving training, so it has been good for the group.
Cillian O'Connor in Allianz Football League action for Mayo against Roscommon. Photo by Piaras Mdheach/Sportsfile
An established performer for Mayo during the past decade has OConnors perspective altered entering each new campaign? You kind of get consumed by the season, by each one, OConnor responds. You get so selfish or inward facing about training, a short term view - session to session.
So you don't feel the time passing and you don't feel the years passing. Maybe one thing might beis that I try to enjoy it a bit more.
Just, I suppose, cherish the opportunity and the privilege it is to play, just be mindful of that. It isn't going to go on forever so you have to enjoy it - enjoy the training sessions, enjoy the graft and then hope it comes together in the games.
Undoubtedly significant commitment is required to operate at the highest level, but the prolific Ballintubber clubman highlights the enjoyment aspect too. Definitely, it is a lifestyle choice, he says.
We opt in or we opt out. There is nobody there who doesn't want to be there. So for all the commitment you give it is a privileged position in a way.
Obviously we have to work very hard, but thousands of fellas would jump in my shoes in the morning if they could get a chance to play.
There are lots of boys and girls that would love to play for Mayo, who don't get the chance. So it is nice to remember that every now and again when you're feeling sorry for yourself.
OConnor remains eager to make an impact for Mayo.