Ballintubber’s Jason Gibbons has had to learn his trade fast
LAST Sunday, as some of the Ballintubber players and management watched the Galway senior final unfold in Tuam Stadium, Jason Gibbons was doing his own thing back in Mayo.
While his colleagues scouted their opponents ahead of next weekend’s Connacht semi-final, the talismanic midfielder was probably dabbling with one of the cars that reside at the back of his house in Annies, deep in the South Mayo countryside. Cars are both his hobby and his passion.
Jason Gibbons has never been your typical club or county footballer.
Talk to anybody that saw the now 22 years-old play underage with Ballintubber and they will say that raw talent and athleticism was never an issue. Catching ball, distributing it accurately, and kicking scores came easy to him.
However, an interest in developing his skills set often came second to other things.
That was until then Ballintubber manager James Horan took an interest in Gibbons’ career, back in 2008. “He’s the main reason so many of us are where we are,” he admitted. “James always told us that we were as good as anybody else, that we were going to achieve something.”
Since Horan’s intervention, Jason Gibbons’ career graph has been on an upward curve; two county senior medals and one season with Mayo are proof positive that he has got down to work.
Next Sunday is another chance for the midfielder, and Ballintubber, to show that they have learned the lessons from last year’s one-point defeat to Killererin at the same stage of the provincial final.
“We should have won that game,” reflected Gibbons last week as he enjoyed a rare evening away from the training field.
“We knew that at the time and we know that now. One thing that’s different from last year is that we celebrated a lot more then than this time around. We learned a lot from that defeat. We’re a year older and wiser now.
“We were out training again on Wednesday night and it was a good intense session. I firmly believe that we can drive on from here. Last year’s experience has brought us on a lot.”
OUTSIDE of the Ballintubber GAA club circle, Jason Gibbons is still something of an unknown quantity to Mayo supporters.
He likes to do most of his talking on the field, and knows that there are no short-cuts to becoming a top-class club and county midfielder.
His first season with Mayo left him in no doubt about that.
“I didn’t get much of a chance with the Mayo minors or U-21s so it was a very steep learning curve for me with the seniors,” he explained. “It was all new to me.
“When you’re training with the county, you’re in with the top 30 lads in Mayo. You have to be in top shape all the time. You can’t be lax’ about anything. It’s a job on top of a job really.
“Say you had a takeaway or something the week you were off from Mayo. Well you’d know all about it the following week when you went back training. You have to be professional in everything you do. It’s a massive step up, a real eye-opener. Playing against the likes of Cork and Kerry in the League teaches you a lot too.
“Coming up against the likes of Kieran Donaghy, who’s an Adonis of the GAA, opens your eyes fairly quickly.”
Dividing his time between Clogher and Castlebar, and the club and county demands, also made the apprentice midfielder appreciate the different worlds that now exist side-by-side.
“You’d enjoy playing with Ballintubber an awful lot more,” he admitted. “There’s so much more pressure on you when you’re playing with Mayo. You can express yourself a lot more playing club football.
“It’s a great honour to play with Mayo but every mistake you make with the county is scrutinised so much and can be very costly.
“I know I had a bad day in London [on his championship debut] but I’ll learn from that, and I really enjoyed the whole experience with Mayo,” he added.
“Next year, my ambition with Mayo is to get back to Croke Park and try and win an All-Ireland. We’re going to push on and work even harder to try and do that.”
As the County Final celebrations wound down in Corley’s last Sunday week, Jason Gibbons could feel his body starting to hurt.
A “tough but fair” battle with Castlebar and Barry Moran “the best midfielder I’ve marked this year” tends to do that.
“But when you win, you don’t mind,” smiled Gibbons. “Money can’t buy those kind of a moments.”
Profession: Installs water pumps with his dad, PJ.
Did you know? He made his Mayo senior championship debut against London last May.