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05th Feb 2023

The two reasons why Aidan O’Shea’s performance against Armagh was his best in ages

Lee Costello

Aidan O'Shea

Mayo 0-17  0-17 Armagh.

Aidan O’Shea has just played his best game in a long time today in Mayo’s thrilling draw with Armagh in the Allianz National League.

Mayo just escaped the Athletic Grounds with a shared point and probably should have won, but at the heart of the success they did have today was O’Shea – and there’s two reasons why.

First of all, he was playing in full forward, a position that makes the most sense for him in terms of getting the best out of his attributes.

Aidan O'Shea

The Breaffy man is powerful, athletic, brave, and strong in the air, but under James Horan he was only ever deployed there on a couple of occasions, and was more often in midfield or centre half forward.

The second reason, and this is a big one, under Kevin McStay, the Connacht side are encouraged to kick the ball so much more, meaning that they can really use O’Shea’s qualities in there.

With number 25 on his back, it was announced that he was a late introduction to the starting team, but given what followed, that was obviously a decoy and a lot of their training this week would have been centred around their man mountain.

Aidan O'Shea

They started him in midfield purely for the throw in, but he quickly found himself in the opposition box and the plan was clear from then on.

Mayo kicked a good few long balls into him, and more interestingly, they attempted a lot of shots from mad ranges that often meant the ball would drop short.

Whether it was a short ball or an intended ball, O’Shea’s presence caused havoc as he either won it, broke it, or more often than not, secured a scoreable free kick for his side.

He was right on top of Ethan Rafferty who isn’t a natural goalkeeper anyway so more responsibility was suddenly put on the Armagh full back line, and O’Shea attracted a lot of attention.

The bear in the square kicked two scores, one from play and one from a mark, but he also won so many of their scoreable frees and was involved with most of their attacks.

In the second half they got him to push up on Rafferty’s kick outs, meaning that he started winning the ball from deep, but unlike when he had defensive responsibilities as a midfielder, he had full license to just drive forward with the ball.

Aidan O'Shea

In recent years the All-Star has come under a lot of scrutiny and is often blamed for not performing in the big games for his county.

However, McStay used to say when he was working as a commentator with RTE that he couldn’t understand why O’Shea was positioned anywhere but full forward.

It was no surprise then that the new manager put this plan into action, and this could be a theme that we see a lot more from this Mayo team in the season ahead.

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