BY GERARD BROWNE
Ex-Down sharp-shooter Marty Clarke feels Aidan O’Shea is a “victim of his own high standards”.
The 2010 All Star was speaking with Mike Finnerty and Billy Joe Padden on the Mayo News Football Podcast ahead of the Division Two opener between the westerners and his native county on Saturday.
When asked about the Breaffy clubman, Clarke explains that it is unfair for people to expect him “to be superman every day”.
“Aidan is a very athletic and highly-talented player but he can’t score huge totals or make those heroic blocks every game,” states the 33-year-old.
“We saw in 2017 when marking Kieran Donaghy, he’ll play anywhere for the team.
“I think a lot of it is ignorance because he’s a team player and lays the ball off to others in better positions, but people then criticise him for not scoring enough himself.”
The Moure men are back in the second tier of the league following a three-year absence. After claiming promotion, they threw away an eight-point half-time lead against Cavan in the Ulster semi-final last year.
Clarke believes the current panel still have some way to go in their development.
“Down traditionally don’t feel inferior to anybody and of course it’s brilliant having confidence, but it’s a long time since we’ve won anything,” adds the ex-AFL player.
“I know we gave Mayo a good scare in the championship a few years ago, but Down needs to be playing to those levels for every game.”
This will be the first time since 1998 that Mayo will be operating outside of the top flight.
The 2021 campaign comes with a twist as each division consists of two groups of four, while counties had no pre-season competitions.
With that in mind, former Mayo player Billy Joe Padden is not expecting James Horan to blood many new players, and that last year’s All-Ireland finalists won’t have it all their own way over the next few weeks.
“There’s no real room for error with so few games, so James will probably go with the core of a team that he can trust,” says the three-time Connacht winner.
“I’m expecting a typical Horan gameplan with a high tempo, the half-backs bursting forward and a big pressure on the opposition’s kick-out.
“They’re so many unknown with this league campaign, so an early setback will leave teams at a disadvantage, with they’re only being three games.
“Mayo has a young squad, but they still have more experience than the other sides in their group. It’s about constituency though and managing situations in matches when things aren’t going your way,” he concludes.
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