TOGGED OUT Pictured at the launch of the vintage Mayo GAA Mayo Day jersey at Lough Lannagh, Castlebar last weekend were, left to right: Mayo captain Diarmuid O'Connor, vice-captain Paddy Durcan, Lee Keegan and David Drake. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
NEW Mayo captain Diarmuid O’Connor was ‘an excellent choice’ for the role and has got quite a bit in common with the man who picked him — James Horan.
That’s according to Alan Dillon, who played with both Horan and O’Connor during his club and county careers, and always marvelled at their laid-back approach to big games.
“Having played with both of them, I would say there are similarities,” Dillon told The Mayo News.
“When they cross the white line, they’re both fierce competitors. But sometimes it’s kinda worrying to see them so relaxed before a match!
“Then they go and flick a switch and just turn it on.
“You’d have to admire it, Keith Higgins would be a lot like that too. It works for some people and not for others.
“Diarmuid has shown his leadership qualities over the last two years and I think he’s an excellent choice,” continued Dillon.
“He has that never-say-die attitude, determination, enthusiasm, and he’s great to be around in a dressing-room.
“He’s captained different teams in the past at club and colleges level, and I think he’s got all the attributes to be a great leader. He’ll drive the standards.”
O’Connor was announced as Mayo’s captain for the rest of the season last week, and takes over from his brother, Cillian, who captained for three years under Stephen Rochford.
Paddy Durcan has been appointed as vice-captain, taking over from Aidan O’Shea and Tom Parsons who were joint vice-captains from 2016 until the end of last season.
Alan Dillon has also played club football with Diarmuid O’Connor for the last six seasons, and believes that the former All-Ireland winning minor and Under-21 winner can go on to become one of Mayo’s all-time greats.
“I don’t think Diarmuid will get overburdened with being captain. He’ll take it all in his stride.
“He’s a cog in a well-oiled machine, and there’s a leadership group in the dressing-room, with lots of past captains there, who will feed back to him and support him.
“I saw it this year when he came back for the club, the athleticism and the drive and the leadership. I’ve no doubt that he can be one of the very best footballers in the country, and one of Mayo’s best players this year.
“If he stays injury-free he can have a big year.”
Dillon, who captained Mayo to a Connacht championship title win in 2014, was on the field in New York when Diarmuid O’Connor made his championship debut earlier that summer.
And if he could offer his young Ballintubber team-mate one piece of advice about leading Mayo into battle this season?
“Don’t try and do too much that’s outside your control,” suggested Dillon. “Diarmuid needs to be the best player that he can be, and bring everybody else with him.
“He’s got a good support team around him, he just needs to get the balance right.
“I know from experience that Diarmuid isn’t afraid to speak his mind. He’s a fierce competitor who hates losing.”
Name: Diarmuid O’Connor
Mayo appearances: 60
Did you know? Diarmuid made his championship debut against New York in May 2014.