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Pressure's on Ready for the roar of Croke Park, Aidan O’Shea is the man hoping to lead Mayo to historic win

'My girlfriend is from Kerry — but I have her converted!'

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Mayo captain Aidan O’Shea turned to sea swimming to keep fit during lockdown.

Mayo captain Aidan O’Shea turned to sea swimming to keep fit during lockdown.

Mayo captain Aidan O’Shea turned to sea swimming to keep fit during lockdown.

If you thought it was tense between Dublin and Mayo at Croke Park, try being in Aidan O’Shea’s house ahead of next month’s All Ireland final.

The Mayo captain is loved up with model and Kerry native Kristin McKenzie Vass, who now faces the dilemma of who to shout for should the two teams go head to head as expected on September 11.

Unless Tyrone caused an upset at yesterday’s rescheduled semi-final, Aidan joked she’ll be modelling green and red, not green and gold, when the county bids to finally break the infamous Curse.

“Kristin moved to Mayo last March,” he tells. “She was doing a Masters in Dublin but it went virtual for the rest of the Masters, so she moved in here.

“It’s been great. It would have been strange, especially in the initial lockdown, being by myself here in the house, so it’s the ideal thing for both of us.

“She’s from Tralee. Mam and dad are from Kerry as well, [but] we have her converted anyway, so it’s alright!”

There were All Ireland-style scenes across the country when James Horan’s men put an end to Dublin’s dreams of seven in a row earlier this month, with the prospect of #Mayo4Sam for the first time in seventy years now tantalisingly closer than ever.

And while the Breaffy player insists that the supposed hex placed on the team in 1951 doesn’t bother the new generation of players, including James Carr (21) and Tommy Conroy (21), breaking it by bringing the Sam Maguire West of the Shannon would be extra sweet following the hardship of lockdown.

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Mayo captain Aidan O’Shea with his girlfriend, Kristin McKenzie Vass.

Mayo captain Aidan O’Shea with his girlfriend, Kristin McKenzie Vass.

Mayo captain Aidan O’Shea with his girlfriend, Kristin McKenzie Vass.

 

“Absolutely, there’s always that element to it, of course,” concedes Aidan of the added pressure of making GAA history. “But it’s important for us to kind of segregate ourselves from what’s been in the past or what people like to talk about.

“It’s not something that we can control. There’s lads there that were born in the 2000s that don’t think about that stuff, so it’s easy not to think about it.

“This team is totally different as well — it’s fresh, it’s young. I think this is kind of a new term in terms of this Mayo team. So I don’t think any of that stuff will matter in a couple of weeks time if it’s Kerry or Tyrone.

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“We’ve never gone in [to a game] with that kind of mindset. We’ve always been very positive and expecting to win so nothing will change there.”

After months of training alone and playing to empty stadiums as the pandemic raged, the thing the 31 year-old is most looking forward to, however, is the roar of a 40,000-strong crowd.

Sure to be cheering the loudest of all as her Daddy bids to lead Mayo victory is his 7 year-old daughter, Caragh, from a previous relationship.

“She’s playing for my local team Breaffy as well,” says proud dad Aidan, who is also a senior planning manager at Allergen, a pharmaceutical company in Westport.

“She’s into it; I’m not sure if she’s as into it as I am, but she does enjoy Saturday mornings playing with her teammates. It’s early doors yet, but it’s good just to have kids out active and partaking in sport.”

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Aidan lifting the Nestor Cup in 2020.

Aidan lifting the Nestor Cup in 2020.

Aidan lifting the Nestor Cup in 2020.

The shredded footballer credits sea swimming with helping to keep him in shape, mentally and physically, after gyms and group training fell victim to Covid.

Smartphone repair company Pair Mobile came to his rescue when his connection to his 112k followers on social media also accidentally went for a dip during lockdown.

“I peak and trough,” says Aidan of his relationship with his iPhone. “You actually don’t realise how long you’re on it.

“Some weeks I’m not too bad, but then I can be at times. I use it more for reading news and listening to podcasts and different bits and bobs. It’s a one stop shop for everything really.”

Just don’t expect a retirement announcement on Twitter any time soon, as the star reveals he’s not planning to follow in the footsteps of Mayo legends such as Donal Vaughan and Seamus O’Shea, who hung up their Elverys jerseys earlier this year.

“We’re lucky that [our] professional career is as important as playing for Mayo,” explains Aidan, who is in the clear for the final after avoiding sanction over his pitch incursion during the semi-final. “It’s not like [our] football career ends, and we stop and go, ‘OK, what to do now?’

“Of course, you’re always conscious that this will end and I’d like to think I’ll be in a good place professionally once that happens. It’s not something that I’m planning on anytime soon. We’ll see.”

Until then, there’s the small matter of the Sam, and the Westerners 8th final since last lifting the trophy, which their captain is determined to enjoy.

“At this stage, I’m playing for a while, [so] there wouldn’t be too much nervous energy there,” smiles Aidan. “Your mindset is that the work is done. Now it’s lace up — and go out and enjoy it.”

  • See pairmobile.ie for more

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