MIDFIELD POWERHOUSE Seamie O'Shea, pictured here after the 2013 All-Ireland SFC semi-final win over Tyrone, announced his retirement from inter-county football last Wednesday. Pic: Sportsfile
Seamie O’Shea led by example, not by words
FROM a very early stage it was apparent that Séamie O’Shea possessed so many of the qualities needed to make it to the inter-county grade and stay there.
I was fortunate enough to watch him develop from national school level and he was captain of the Breaffy Minor team which won the County Minor B title in 2005 when I was a selector. His brother Aidan, then just turned 15, was centre-forward on that team.
He led not so much by words, but by example. He was not a man for long-winded speeches but when he talked, people listened. He would say a few words and they would be ruthlessly efficient. And not alone would he not ask anyone to do something he wouldn’t do himself, but he would also do that something himself before anyone else.
Physically, Séamie was always very strong, and a fine fielder, but it was his internal qualities that made him the player he became.
He always had a heart of a lion, and was one of the most determined players and people you could meet. We saw that with the unerring devotion to his recovery he displayed to come back from major injuries. So, too, the determination to keep going for Mayo while domiciled in Dublin.
He was loyal to a fault – to his team-mates and to his family.
When Séamie was with you, you knew it.
He did not know how to back down from a challenge. When games heated up, that was when he was at his best. He was some man to have beside you going into battle.
Séamie was not a player who was at his best when his team were cruising to victory.
But when the fat was in the fire, and the game was down to the wire, or when you were chasing a deficit, Séamie O’Shea was worth his weight in gold.
That’s when the warrior in him came out.
We recall so many instances over the years for club and county, but a few are worth retelling here.
There was the 2006 All-Ireland Under-21 final. A few months after not being picked to start in the All-Ireland Minor final loss to Down – still a bone of contention 16 years on! – Séamie was at midfield with Barry Moran down in Ennis.
He had been poor in the first half, as had many of his colleagues, and somehow Mayo only trailed 0-7 to 0-4 at the break. But when the need was greatest, he stood tall with a herculean second half display, including being fouled for the game-changing penalty after a barnstorming run.
There was the league game in the Hyde at the end of March 2016.
Roscommon were flying high after being promoted to Division 1, Mayo were facing relegation. Séamie was just back from injury but he showed a talented yet inexperienced Roscommon team that they still had a lot of growing up to do with a physically awesome display. He always seemed to relish going into the battle with the Rossies.
His finest hour was, arguably, the last game of that season. Few will remember the All-Ireland Final replay defeat fondly, most will try to forget it, but O’Shea did absolutely everything he could that day to turn the game Mayo’s way.
The reality is Dublin were four or five points a better team that day. That it was just a one point win in the end was down to Séamie O’Shea more than anyone else.
He fought might and main to keep Mayo in the game, turning over countless Dublin attacks, driving forward relentlessly.
At his very best when the need was at its absolute greatest. The mark of the man.
It’s just a pity it was just not enough.
We recall plenty of big games at club level too. He was a 17-year-old wing forward on that great day in 2004 when Breaffy won our only ever County Intermediate title.
There was the league game in 2006 or 2007 against Shrule/Glencorrib, who had been experimenting to considerable success with Trevor Mortimer as a centre-half back.
Séamie was put in the unusual position of centre-half forward on him and, even more unusually, took Trevor for a goal. That may have been the end of both experiments.
Séamie wasn’t a prolific scorer.
He always did so much of the grafting in the middle third to allow others to shine.
He took a while to establish himself as an automatic starter for Mayo, but by the time the All-Ireland finals of ‘16 and ’17 came around, he was pivotal.
While injury did impede him this year, we can’t help but wonder if he still might have been an invaluable sub’ in the second half against Dublin. Would Brian Howard have had as much freedom with Séamie around? No chance.
He wouldn’t have been overly comfortable with announcing his retirement. He’d prefer to drift off quietly, but that’s not how these things operate now.
But he deserves the acclaim because for too long Séamie O’Shea was an unsung hero on this Mayo team. It’s only now that he is gone that his full worth will begin to be appreciated.
Thanks for the memories, Séamie.
Name: Seamie O’Shea
Debut: NFL 2008, Championship 2010
Honours: 1 NFL medal, 7 Connacht SFC medals.
Did you know? Seamie scored one goal during his Mayo senior career, against Sligo in the 2015 Connacht Final.