STAR MAN Cillian O’Connor
LAST Sunday evening Cillian O’Connor was back on club duty.
Just days after learning that he’d won his second All Star award, the Mayo forward was helping his father, Tony, the Ballintubber GAA club chairman, to run the club’s online lotto draw which was streamed live on Facebook from the family home.
And former Mayo star Alan Dillon believes that O’Connor’s exploits for the county last season has rubbished any notion of the Connacht champions lacking a ‘marquee forward’.
Dillon, who also won two All Stars, says his club-mate was in the form of his life last season.
“It [his form] certainly rules out this idea that Mayo have not developed a marquee forward,” he told The Mayo News last night (Monday). “Cillian has been leading the way over the last number of years and he is still not getting recognised nationally for his scoring exploits.
“He was just so clinical last year, ruthless. His first touch was top class and so was his decision-making. We saw the type of form from him that was similar to when he won his first All Star.
“Hopefully he can continue that form into 2021 especially in such an exciting full forward line alongside Aidan O’Shea and Tommy Conroy, who is only going to get better.”
O’Connor, a former two-time Young Footballer of the Year, registered 5-40 in this year’s championship, including 5-13 from play.
Dillon believes O’Connor’s lack of game time in the early stages in the National League, the extended break due to Covid-19, and the club championship that led into the inter-county campaign all contributed to O’Connor’s ‘outstanding season’.
Ballintubber GAA secretary, Pat Barrett, also spoke glowingly of the 28 year-old.
“We’re all extremely proud of Cillian receiving his second All Star award after what was a wonderful year for him,” he told The Mayo News. “This award has stemmed from the Ballintubber Bord na nÓg going back many years when he was a young footballer.
“He is the product of the great coaching that was going on at that level at the time and you can see that in the current senior team where Cillian and a lot his team-mates from that age are still playing a huge part.
“That underage structure was where they developed their skills, their love and appetite for the game and where they would push on to achieve even greater things.
“Cillian has always spoken of how proud he is to pull on the Green and Red jersey and that when he got it, he didn’t want to relinquish it easy, and that has always stood to him.
“And no more than in Ballintubber now, where there are a few young players there who are snapping his heels for the number 14 jersey, he’ll be wanting to hold on to that jersey as long as he possibly can too.”