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Leave Aidan alone

On the Edge

Áine Ryan

NOW that Enda Kenny has a bit of time on his hands, he could teach Aidan O’Shea a thing or two. Some anusara yoga moves. How to be mindful when eating his porridge and chia seeds. High-five and punch a ball into the net at the same time. Sign autographs while stretching his Achilles tendon. Pose for selfies while partaking in a team warm-up.  
Well, notwithstanding the age gap, both Mayo men have a lot in common. They have had varying levels of success playing out around the middle on GAA pitches.  
However, the most practical skill the retiring Taoiseach could impart to the Breaffy man is undoubtedly the best ways to dodge media bullets.
Both men have been the subjects of relentless cyber bullying. Bad enough as that insidious practice is – faceless avatars venting their spleen in the amoral and avaricious ethernet – the official media monster itself has embraced the witch-hunt with abandon. In the end, Enda capitulated and bowed out, the daily barrage of hysterical headlines obviously taking its toll. His final words as he emotionally exited stage left as leader of Fine Gael: “Is it okay if I go now?”
That was on the evening of Wednesday, May 17. Forty-eight hours of picking over his 42-year career like carrion crows and it was time to despatch him to the archives and start the next public flogging, albeit with some necessary honeymoon fragrance: prepare yourselves  Leo and Simon.
The victor may take the spoils but there are no real winners in the end when the despotic media hold the reigns.       

Ask Aidan O’Shea?
ASK him about small, spindly-legged commentators who couldn’t kick a ball across a dressing room but have the temerity to pontificate and postulate from the safety of their couches. Self-important shock-jocks who sit in radio and television studios with their inflated egos while dribbling drivel.
The Irish Daily Star’s Kieran Cunningham was on the ball when he tweeted recently that Aidan O’Shea was to blame for global warming, ransomware, avocado toast and man-buns. Keith Duggan’s tongue-in-cheek response in The Irish Times suggested that O’Shea couldn’t start for Mayo against Sligo, in the championship kick-off game on Sunday May 21, because he had ‘spent the last 48 hours sitting in stocks and chains outside the courthouse in Castlebar while the cognoscenti pelt him with day-old muffins and the dregs of smoothies’. Clearly, Duggan wasn’t aware that there once stood an old hanging tree on the county town’s grassy Mall. It used to be the cricket lawn for the Lords Lucan. Perhaps, O’Shea is playing the wrong game.    
When you are from Mayo ‘God Help Us’ it is a mortal sin to stand tall, be confident, shoot from the hip, celebrate your individuality.
“Don’t be getting’ too big for your boots, bucko.”
That is the preserve of the Dubs whose capital city confidence excludes them from the critical caricaturisation meted out to culchies and boggers, who dare to step above their station.
The hocus-pocus rehashing of ‘the curse’ every time Mayo gets within an ass’s roar of the holy grail confirms the myopic myth-making by many media outlets. They just can’t help themselves, can they?

Selfies and autographs
BUT back to Aidan O’Shea. Let’s say for argument’s sake that he stopped taking selfies with fans and refused to stand around, while bruised and battered in the rain and the wind, writing autographs for pesky teenagers. Would he become a better footballer? Would it ensure that Mayo won the All-Ireland in 2017? The ethos of the GAA is underpinned by fostering athleticism through communities and parishes. It is about inspiring young people to embrace their cultural heritage through communal games.
While still an amateur sport, the organisation has become corporatised to dovetail with the fabric of contemporary society. Breaffy-native, Aidan O’Shea is just one of a plethora of modern players who are poster-boys for the branding of the sport. Like many other high-profile players, he has a metrosexual image, happens to be handsome, talented and has the confidence to capitalise on this. So what if he is a brand ambassador for Audi? Or that he has a deal with Adidas? Should he be hanged-drawn-and-quartered because he makes a couple of appearances a year as an AIB ambassador?
Like Cillian O’Connor or Lee Keegan, Aidan O’Shea is a private citizen with a public profile. Time to stop baying for his blood and leave him alone.

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