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02nd Mar 2022

Why Aidan O’Shea’s new role as an impact sub could prove pivotal in championship

Lee Costello

Starters and finishers.

For the last decade, Aidan O’Shea has always been one of the first names on the team sheet. His versatility, power, reading of the game and leadership qualities made him such an asset to the team.

His longevity and availability is another quality that doesn’t get the credit it deserves. He’s pretty much never injured, and always there, ready and wanting to be called upon.

However, last year in particular, the Breaffy clubman did not enjoy a great season, with disappointing performances in the All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin, and in the final against Tyrone.

With a lot of criticism coming his way, people have jumped on the “overrated” bandwagon, claiming that he was never as good as previously accredited, because in the fickle world of the GAA, two bad performances can erase 50 great ones.

You do not become a bad player overnight, and I think that the Mayo man has been a victim of his own reputation, with opposition teams targeting him and formulating game plans around stopping him.

With this much attention and hyper focus on the player, coupled with the fact that he is often trialled at full forward whenever it doesn’t look to be his best position, it’s easy to see why O’Shea looked a little out of place last season.

However, in every league game so far this year, James Horan has brought him on as a substitute, floating between the two 50s, and he has had an impact in every one of those games.

Just last weekend against Armagh, when they were looking for an equaliser, they lumped the ball into the box only for it to be caught, and distributed into an attack by the seasoned stalwart.

When you think of the dominating Dublin teams that had such a hold on the Sam Maguire in recent years, their biggest strength was their squad depth and ability to bring on elite level players as substitutes.

Alan Brogan, Bernard Brogan, Kevin McManamon, Darragh Michael McCauley and Cormac Costello have all fulfilled this role to devastating effects in clutch moments of big games.

Any All-Ireland winning team in history had a team of ‘starters and finishers,’ rather than ‘starters and ‘substitutes’.

To be successful, you need players who are going to come on and raise the game, rather than just fill a gap whenever a starter gets injured or tired.

Even Tyrone last year were hugely reliant on their bench, with Mark Bradley, Darragh Canavan, and most notably, Cathal McShane proving to be the difference in important games throughout the championship.

Along with maybe Kevin McLoughlin and a few others, Aidan O’Shea could play a new role, that although less impactful in terms of his duration on the pitch, could finally be the difference in seeing Mayo get over that last slippery hurdle.

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