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O’Connor chasing Mayo minor dream

Sport

O’Connor chasing his dream


Interview
Mike Finnerty

“ANYONE that plays football dreams of playing in an All-Ireland Final at Croke Park. Since the age of five or six, kicking a ball, it’s been my dream. Hopefully that dream will come true. But we have to concentrate on Monaghan first, and that will be a huge test.
“We know we’ll have to be at the top of our game or we’ll be going out. But we know if we perform to our best we’ll have a great chance of getting into an All-Ireland Final.”
These were the words of Mayo minor midfielder Diarmuid O’Connor last week as he took stock ahead of the team’s All-Ireland semi-final against Ulster champions Monaghan next Sunday.
O’Connor was in flying form after learning that he had secured more than enough points in his Leaving Cert exams for a place in his chosen third-level course, Sports Science at Dublin City University.
All going well, the former Davitt College, Castlebar student will be commencing his studies in the capital next month.
However, the first item on his agenda is his second All-Ireland Minor semi-final next weekend, a year on from the disappointment of losing to Meath at the same stage in 2012.
“We were unfortunate to lose that game last year but we put that behind us. It’s a new year, a new team, new management. Hopefully we can go one step further this year.
“I was a lot more nervous last year, it was my first year minor, my first year playing in Croke Park in front of a big crowd,” added the Ballintubber teenager. “There were a lot of nerves. This year, hopefully, I’ll be a lot calmer going into it and not get carried away with the occasion.”
In terms of preparing for a game of this importance, Diarmuid O’Connor is fortunate that he shares a house in Ballintubber with a two-time Young Footballer of the Year, aka his brother Cillian.
The Mayo senior star is currently riding the crest of a wave after scoring two hat-tricks in successive championship matches, and Diarmuid admits he is a big influence.
“Yeah, he’d be able to give me tips about the occasion and tell me not to get carried away, and to enjoy it. I’d like to think I’m fairly calm like him anyway.
“We just try and do the same things as usual around the house, the same as for any club game or county match.
“You try and talk about other things so that you’re not thinking about the game all the time, but football always seems to creep into the conversation.”
You wonder if he would like to score a hat-trick at Croke Park next weekend and emulate his big brother?
“Well if I get three tap-ins too I’d be fairly confident I’ll take them,” he chuckled. “Ah no, he did well in fairness.”
There is no doubt that Diarmuid O’Connor has inherited his brother’s ability to talk football and, on the evidence of his short inter-county career, he can also play a bit.
Judging by his answer to a question about Mayo’s aspirations for the rest of the season, it would seem his attitude and temperament are also in the right place.
“It’s one game at a time. We have to go out and perform every day.
“The Galway game was a big match for us because if we had lost that we were out. Once we won it we knew were going to be in an All-Ireland quarter-final.
“You don’t want to be thinking that way going into a Connacht Final but it’s always at the back of your head.
“We go out to win every game, to play with the same attitude.”
Remember the name.
Hopefully the best is yet to come.

FACTFILE
Name: Diarmuid O’Connor
Age: 18
Club: Ballintubber
2013 Honours: Connacht Vocational Schools Senior ‘A’ championship and Connacht Minor championship.
Did you know? Diarmuid has also lined out for Ballyheane FC sides regularly.