There was more unsettling news for Mayo supporters this morning as, for the fourth day in a row, a significant player for the county over the last decade has called time on his inter-county career.
Today, it’s Seamus O’Shea who has announced that his time is up. Like the other lads who have done likewise this week, Séamie’s announcement isn’t a surprise but it will, for obvious reasons, sadden Mayo fans that another big performer for us is leaving the scene.
When you start to dig into the detail on playing time, though, it’s easy to see why Séamie – who, as one of the Dublin-based contingent, spent countless hours over several years traversing the country to get to training – would feel that now is the right time to go.
While he was part of the panel this year, Séamie didn’t feature on the match-day squad for any of our Championship games and he wasn’t on the field for any of our pre-Covid League games this year either. When he wasn’t included in the match-day 26 for the All-Ireland final – having been involved so hugely on previous final days – the writing was on the wall.
Séamie was, like so many of the team who soared so high over the last decade, part of the Class of 2006 who captured All-Ireland honours at U21 level that year. He was only a year out of Minor then, featuring as a sub in the Minor All-Ireland final loss to Down in 2005. He also made an appearance off the bench at Minor level in 2004.
Séamie continued to play Championship football at U21 in 2007 and 2008, ending up with three provincial medals at that level. It was in 2008 that he first saw Senior action, making his National League debut on a wet and windy night up in Celtic Park against Derry (that was the same game in which Tom Parsons was first blooded at Senior too).
It wasn’t, though, until 2010 that he made his Championship debut. That was largely due to a long-running injury, however, which kept him sidelined for almost all of 2009.
This meant that by the time Séamie made his first Championship appearance kid brother Aidan had got there ahead of him. The Breaffy brothers with the strong Kerry connections would go on to prove central to the Mayo story for much of the high-octane decade to come.
They were paired at in the centre of the field for much of the 2011 Championship campaign. Séamie saw less action in 2012, with Barry Moran and Jason Gibbons getting the nod more often at midfield, but his late introduction in that year’s semi-final against Dublin saw him shoot a settling score in a contest that seemed to be spinning away from us.
From then on he was, apart from when he was out through injury, an ever-present and an increasingly important figure for us in the middle third of the field. We were very strong in that sector all during those years and that’s due in no small part to the hard work and full-hearted effort Séamie put in every time he pulled on the jersey.
He avoided serious injury until the fateful summer of 2018. Already holed below the water-line by Tom Parsons’ dreadful knee injury, any hopes we might have had for progression once again to the latter end of that year’s Championship went by the board when Séamie was helped from the field at Semple Stadium with what turned out to be a dislocated shoulder.
As he continued his recovery early the following year and as James Horan, now back in charge, shuffled his options at midfield – with Séamie’s Breaffy clubmate Mattie Ruane emerging as a significant new midfield talent – he didn’t feature in the 2019 spring campaign which culminated in a League final win over Kerry.
True to form, though, he wasn’t yet finished and the tougher the challenges got in the summer of 2019, the more was seen of Séamie. Substitute appearances in the qualifier game against Galway and the Super 8 match against Kerry were followed by starting berths in the matches against Meath and Donegal. He also lined out in the All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin and that proved to be his final competitive appearance for the county.
In all, Séamie made 96 appearances at inter-county level, 51 of them in the Championship. He holds seven Connacht SFC medals, as well as All-Ireland and provincial honours at U21 level.
In making his retirement announcement today, Séamie said that he considered himself to be “incredibly fortunate to have played for Mayo alongside an extraordinary group of players.”
We were equally fortunate that you were there too, Séamie, and what you contributed to the cause over your 13 years as an inter-county player was pretty extraordinary too. Thanks for all that and best wishes to you and your family for the future.