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Pádraig O’Hora’s faith with Mayo’s ‘winning’ plan undimmed by David Clifford schooling in Croke


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“I think we’re aware that when we perform we’re very good,” says Pádraig O’Hora of their penchant for extremes. “We deserve a seat at the top table, whatever. When we don’t, when we’re a little bit off our game, we get punished for it and I think that’s the same for most teams.

“You heard that word ‘consistency’ in the media – and I’m sick and tired of hearing it myself. It seems to be the hot topic but it’s just the case that when we’re on, we’re on and you’ve seen us when we’re on, we’re very good.

“But when we miss a beat the focus isn’t there and you get punished for it at this level. There’s a couple of per cent in it, isn’t there? That is it.”

Small margin, yes. But Mayo football is a boom/bust economy. No support base gets quite so swept away in expectation, hubris or hope. None fall quite as hard or as often either.

This is not new terrain. Another player might seek to temper expectation. Not Pádraig O’Hora. The Ballina defender is an all duck or no dinner kind of guy.

“I just like competition to be honest with you,” he explains. “It’s something I’ve experienced. I think it was Ray Goggins the boss man on (RTÉ reality show) Ultimate Hell Week who said it to me about just like applying yourself to just putting yourself out there.

“Taking risks will never be the problem. I’ll always remember that.

“It’s not the losses, it’s of where you hid away or shy away from something. I’ve never shied away from anything really.

“Like, if there’s an opportunity to play tomorrow morning and mark whoever,” O’Hora adds, “let’s go and see.

“I had a terrible day out here (Croke Park) once and like I still don’t remember one bit of it, because it was still an experience, still an opportunity and hopefully there is a few more to come, please god.”

The day to which O’Hora refers was the 2022 NFL Division 1 final. That afternoon he was given the brief of marking David Clifford.

The key statistic to note from that dual is Kerry’s genius-in-residence kicking 1-5 from play but there was a little sub-narrative from the day.

O’Hora had been in Clifford’s ear before the goal, an extraordinary piece of individual skill, pace and invention.

Unusually, O’Hora offered a hand to Clifford afterwards. A little salute to a moment of extreme quality.

“People get so caught up in this pushing and mouthing and so on and so forth,” O’Hora recalls. “I think we were taking the mick out of each other for the best part of that game. There was a bit of joking going on, a bit of general jest really.

“He is an excellent footballer. I think after the goal it was more…maybe unintentional. You will do it at training too, if somebody pulls off something you don’t expect. I remember the ball going in because I didn’t think he could put it in the net from where we were.

“We came in Hill side, he was tight on the angle, he really should have like most people tap it over the bar. He just dipped it over the keeper. I think it was more of like, ‘woof’ fair play, it was one of those moments.

“You are going, ‘Fair enough, if you can do that…you can do that.’

Sunday brings a Connacht SFC final. It is the nature of the football calendar now that we will have to wait to decipher quite what it means. Not just until after the game, but maybe another month/six weeks after that.

There are unknowns we don’t even know about yet but O’Hora has a gift for simplifying these things.

“I don’t read too much into the structures,” he says. “I don’t pay them enough attention. I don’t know the GAA structure never mind the rugby structure or any of the rest of it,” he stresses.

“I don’t even know the teams who played last weekend. All I know and ever known is just keep winning, keep winning. I’ve never known a team to (say) ‘well if we go this route’. I’ve never heard that in a dressing room.

“I’ve never heard it in Mayo dressing room I can tell you that much. There was a conversation this year about teams not wanting to make the National League final but there was never a conversation about that in our dressing room.

“Win, win and keep winning is just the way you do it. Go out and play Roscommon, the plan is to win and we won. Next is the Connacht final, try and win that game and that’s it.

“There is no conversation about anything else and there won’t be until that game is over.”

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