Aidan O'Shea laments league campaign and acknowledges the strength in Connacht

Mayo lost their opening three games of the league campaign

Aidan O'Shea laments league campaign and acknowledges the strength in Connacht

Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie 

Stephen Rochford will have a chance to regroup after a turbulent league campaign which saw his Mayo side lose their opening three Division 1 games.

Rochford was forced to rotate his squad through injury and the largely experimental panel will be trimmed before the Championship campaign.

The reigning Connacht champions are looking to secure a sixth provincial championship on the bounce, but star forward Aidan O'Shea says the competition will be tougher than ever.

“From our point of view we’ve had a challenge every year in Connacht. It hasn’t really been acknowledged because we didn’t have another Division 1 team in the championship" says O'Shea.

"Look at Roscommon who have continually won their league campaigns in Division 3 and Division 2 and now they’re here in Division 1.

"We definitely acknowledge the challenge that other teams bring. Against Galway we conceded a goal before half time and then we got a lucky goal then after the break. That split the game for us that day.

"There were games where we only beat Roscommon for a point or two. This year, Roscommon are a year older and a year wiser. Their players are getting to the right age profile, as are Galway.

"We’re aware of the difficulty ahead of us and we won’t take it for granted."

O'Shea acknowledged the impact the rotation policy has had on the team during a "mixed bag" league campaign.

"I thought the first game we were poor. Our performances since then have been decent, but maybe we’ve just fallen on the bad side of some of the results.

“Towards the end when we got a few boys back, we got results to keep us safe. I think looking back when we went out we didn’t say we wanted to go and win the league."

The return of Cillian O'Connor and Keith Higgins to the squad, as well as new additions like Diarmuid O'Connor have given Rochford greater choice ahead of the summer.

Diarmuid O'Connor has impressed at U21 level and looks to make his mark in this summer's Championship. Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie 

“We used 35 players which is unheard of for something like that with us in the last couple of years. All in all I think we’re back in a good position and we’ve a big gap now to get ready for the Championship.

“Stephen has tried a couple of players out and tried a few things in the league, you have to give the boys the opportunity to perform.

“We can look back on some of the games in the league and say that there were certainly some positives to take from it. In the last couple of games where we need a result we really stepped up. We got on a good run with the two wins, so now we have to focus on the Championship.

"We might have had the problem with rotating a very big squad and we had a few injuries during the league.

“But the bigger the competition the better the impact on the lads. You feel the pressure to perform. Obviously Stephen will have to cut the panel down for Championship, but I think it was a good move for the league campaign.

Aidan O'Shea was speaking at the launch at the launch of the GAA’s Cúl Camps which will run up and down the country in local clubs.