GOALS Tommy Conroy celebrates after scoring a goal for Mayo against Down in the National League recently. Pic: Sportsfile
The way I see it
A COUPLE months back I met Mayo footballer Tommy Conroy (aka Tommy from The Neale) in the Intersport Elverys offices in Castlebar.
I was doing my new day-job and Tommy was in to do some promotional work for the launch of the new Mayo jersey.
There were a number of things that made him stand out from the crowd; one being the positive energy that he radiates, the second being his impressive tan, but the third and most striking of all was how conditioned he had got since I last saw him.
Only a year previously, he had got the call up to the Mayo starting XV for the first time in Ballybofey against Donegal in the National League and, although he gave Neil McGee plenty to think about that night, physically he didn’t look like a senior inter-county footballer.
He was a boy amongst men back then, and throughout 2020 there was a notion being thrown around that he was ‘too light’, despite a string of impressive displays for Mayo.
But fast forward 12 months or so, and he looked every bit like a county senior when he was donning the new Mayo jersey in the office for the first time.
It wasn’t just me either who noticed it; a couple of my work colleagues were surprised at how conditioned he was too, particularly given that pre-conceived notion he was ‘small and light’.
Whatever they’re feeding him at home in Cong, it must be high-quality concentrates!
To be fair to Tommy, it’s pretty clear that his diet is only one minor piece to the puzzle.
A couple of weeks back he told this newspaper of his love for routine and discipline in his life when promoting the newest ‘Mindspace Mayo’ campaign.
The hard hours of lifting weights, eating right, sleeping well and recovering pay the richest of dividends if you put in the graft and Tommy Conroy is a walking, talking example of that.
Reading that interview it was clear he has grown up in a much greater sense than just his physical profile.
He’s still only 21 but his time in the Mayo senior panel has matured him a lot and reading what he had to say around the importance of maintaining a positive mindset during difficult times would be hugely inspiring for young people to read, especially those who now look up to him.
It seems like only yesterday I used to meet Tommy in AXSOM Sports in Claremorris, a gym owned by Mayo S&C coach Conor Finn, where he was doing a programme assigned to him by then Mayo senior manager Stephen Rochford.
That was 2018 and Rochford had spotted his potential early.
Conroy was barely 18 then, but his potential was already starting to be noticed.
The Neale forward was a joy to watch last Saturday week against Down.
There’s nothing more exciting than seeing an electric player with pace to burn, power to put down, and an eye for the goal.
I’m not looking forward to potentially meeting him in the County Senior Final this year! What I would love to see, though, is Tommy and his best mate Oisin Mullin in a duel the next time that Kilmaine and The Neale meet in the O’Mara Cup!
Tommy spoke of his love of fishing in that aforementioned interview, but I’m well informed that he and Oisin are big fans of table tennis too and spent a lot of the lockdown playing on a newly-purchased table.
Speaking of Oisin Mullin, the heights that the Kilmaine man can potentially reach at this rate look astronomical.
His rate of progression over the past 12 months is incredible and I’m willing to go out on a limb here and state that I think he has the potential to surpass the exploits of the likes of Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle, Keith Higgins etc.
The only aspect of his game that I would change is his position – I think he needs to be out in the half-back line.
In the past decade our half-back line was our ultimate weapon, the driving force behind the team, with Keegan, Barrett and Boyle at the absolute peak of their powers.
I can’t see why during this decade, Mayo can’t regain that Trump card and fear factor from the half-back line with Eoghan McLaughlin, Mullin and Paddy Durcan.
Enda Hession looks a talent and might stake a claim in the full-back line, while Brendan Harrison returning will give James Horan another opportunity to let Mullin loose on the ’45.
Heck, Boyle could do a job in the full-back line too.
But having that platform of pace and power going forward in Croke Park that Mayo would have with the aforementioned trio will not be matched by too many.