Cillian’s cruel injury blow

Photo: Irish Examiner

The news confirmed earlier on today by Mayo GAA that the injury Cillian O’Connor picked up in the Clare match last Sunday is an Achilles tendon one requiring surgery comes as such a cruel blow.

First and foremost, it’s an enormous setback for Cillian himself. Mercifully free of injury for most of the past year, the Ballintubber man was in the form of his life, playing with a kind of abandon and providing fearsome leadership in a team now peppered with emerging talents.

He must surely have been relishing the upcoming Championship campaign and the opportunity it would afford him to showcase his talents to the full, driving the team to ever higher performance levels. Now, all of a sudden, that’s been taken away from him.

The Mayo GAA statement contained no details about just how bad the injury is. But with surgery required, it’s safe to assume he won’t be back in action any time soon and that his rehab is likely to be measured in months, not weeks. Only a hopeless optimist could refuse to accept the inevitable that, sadly, Cillian’s inter-county year is now over.

For the team, the loss of its talisman is a staggering blow. Losing any player hits hard – and, Lord knows, we’ve been deprived of the services of so many important players at crucial times over the past decade – but Cillian’s loss to the team is simply incalculable.

He brings so much to the table, not just in relation to his scoring rate but also the massive amount of tackling, running, passing and organising he does in the opposition half of the field. Latterly, there’s also been the mentoring of the young guns alongside him up top and it has to be feared that they’ll feel his loss more keenly than most.

As the saying goes, though, there’s no ‘i’ in team. No one player comprises the whole fifteen. As heavy as this blow is, James Horan and his team have no choice but to take it on the chin and re-plan for a Championship campaign that begins in less than two weeks.

The draw helps us in that regard. With all due respect to Sligo and Leitrim, we’ve two matches to sort how we line up this summer – and, don’t forget, we’ve issues other than who replaces Cillian to deal with in that regard – and then, assuming we win those two, we have to give the Connacht final our very best shot.

And that’s all we can, in truth, do. With Cillian on board this summer, we could realistically have expected to retain the Nestor Cup and have a right cut off the Dubs in the All-Ireland semi-final. In his absence, winning Connacht becomes a big enough ask, keeping the ball kicked out to the six-in-a-row champions an even bigger one.

Tonight, though, it doesn’t even seem right to be thinking those kinds of thoughts. Instead, it’s best to focus back on Cillian himself, by thanking him for the huge effort he’s put in for Mayo down the years and by wishing him all the luck in the world on his road to recovery. Get well soon, Cillian.

40 thoughts on “Cillian’s cruel injury blow

  1. Devastating blow firstly for Cillian and secondly for the team. He has been flying for the last 12 months and I really feel for him. It’s going to be a real struggle without him and I don’t hold out much hope for us now. Hopefully it helps us find some other leaders up front which will stand to us when he returns.

  2. We spoke of Aiden been a loss if he wasn’t back, I think this is a bigger loss if you take frees in to consideration,

  3. Gutted for him and the team. Without a doubt our key player, probably too much expected of him at times but that all stems from the high standards he has set for himself and the team as a whole.

    I don’t really expect the players returning from injuries to make a big impact this year so the opportunity is there for the younger members of the panel to really step up and try and fill that gap. Maybe Horan might start to think more defensively because given this news it’s hard to see us beating anyone in a straight shoot-out…

  4. I’ve thought about little else all day. A sickening blow.

    No point saying anything about the rest of the campaign tonight. Now is the time to offer some support to Cillian. He’s been phenomenal for Mayo and is a major reason why we’ve been so competitive over the last decade.

    All we can do is wish him the very best of luck with his recovery. I’m sure the likes of Tom Parsons will be in touch with him to offer support and motivation to get back to full health.

  5. Cillian doesnt rely on pace, that much, so he could have another 3 years from next season, if fit. He will turn 30 next Spring, I believe.

    Time for Conroy, Carr, ROD, Walsh to step up. They have a season or two under their belts. No more ‘new boys’ talk.

    Coen could play an important role too. We’ll just have to wait and see.

  6. Gutted for Cillian and Mayo. He is such a phenomenal player. We can only hope he will be back in action as soon as possible.

  7. so sorry for cillan wishing him a speedy recovery such abig loss for us ever since he come on the scene as a 19 year old in 2011 he solving our free take problem we had a big free take problem again london in 11 had a great connacht final that year great free in the windy and rain and the boos ring in his ears in the Hyde he been brilliant ever since it up to other to step up to the mark thank Wille joe for all the work your do for mayo football and your great archive

  8. So sad to read this but I’m thinking of Cillian and sending thanks to him for his absolutely amazing service through the years. He’s a fantastic footballer and he’s always been a leader.
    It’s a cruel blow to the Mayo team but we will survive. Time for others to shine. Come on Mayo. Maigheo abú.

  9. – Best wishes to Cillian for a full and fast recovery and to Diarmuud as well.
    – Added pressure now even to win Nestor but the team and management are resilient which we as supporters need to be, we are not finished yet for 2021.
    – You can bet Donegal have not given up on winning Ulster if Murphy is still injured and do we really want to turn out like SOME Galway supporters who opened up a “GalwayFootball2022″ and ” PJreplacement ” threads on their blog after their first league game hammering by Kerry.

  10. Murphy is a phenomenal player and very important to Donegal but I would say Cillian is even more crucially important to Mayo Best wishes and a speedy recovery to one of our all time greats .

  11. Might as well forget about this season if it’s as bad as it sounds. By far Mayo’s best player and in the form of his life. We don’t have someone with half his ability to replace him.

  12. Disaster. Just as he was back in flying form aswell. Connacht a very big ask now. Id nearly put Aidan in a roving FF role, could take a bit of attemtion of Tommy and whoever else. Coen could do a job too. Most supporters will want to see Jimmy Carr go in, but i dont think FF suits him, more of a corner player taking ball slightly deep, then bursting forward. Anyways, we’ll find out soon enough unfortunately.

  13. Going on form a few years ago replaceable.
    Going on last years form irreplaceable.
    2 lines, midfield and ff line had been our most settled lines, musical chairs in all other lines. Hopefully diarmuids injury won’t mean we’re back to square one all over the pitch.
    Wouldn’t have been in the final last year without cillian that’s how important he’s been for us. Don’t think the same could be said for any other player.
    Realistically there was never going to be an all ireland this year with or without cillian. Win promotion and connacht the best we could hope for. Won promotion, tick, can we win connacht without cillian, I’m not so sure.

  14. Best of luck Cillian on the road to recovery. Very well written piece Willie Joe.as it captures the sentiment of all Mayo supporters this morning. Am really gutted for the lad

  15. This is clearly a huge setback, for Cillian, the team and supporters. Sometimes, an event such as this has a galvanizing effect on other team members, and indeed supporters.
    “Let’s do it for Cillian “. and offer an extra 10% or whatever we can give.
    And let us also remember Diarmuid.
    A speedy and full recovery to both of the brothers.

  16. On a personal level, I wish Cillian a speedy recovery for his sake, his work in the recruitment business he is a joint owner in, as well as dealing with the physical and mental pain and pressures that recovering from a serious injury brings with it for amateur sportsmen and women. Lads like Jason Doherty, Brendan Harrison, are coming out the other end of all that now, and Tom Parsons epitomises the great personal sacrifice it can bring upon players.
    As many posters referred to, Cillian is in the form of his life, and indeed he has been, and he will return to drive opposition defences mad and push scoring records further past where they will never be beaten.
    Heal well Cillian, and Diarmuid too, as well as all the other lads and lassies too that put it on the line and entertain us.
    As for our chances of success in Connacht without the man who leads our forward-line so well, we must reduce our expectations.
    Experience is getting very scarce. If you take the Mayo team that started the All-Ireland Final five years ago, seven have retired, three are out injured, and just five are currently available to play – four – Lee, Paddy, Kevin Mc and AOS will start v Sligo with Boyler likely on the bench.
    We have seen some great new talent join the squad in the last couple of years in particular but to achieve the highest conditioning and mental strength for the big teams and big days can take up to five years. You can see that with the younger Kerry and Dublin players and we are similar but our inexperienced players have some time and a lot of growing in body and mind to topple the more advanced (in those areas) Dublin and Kerry squads. We just need to lower our expectations for this year and maybe next as we return to battle the best teams in the League.
    Because we have two games we should win before a Connacht Final, James Horan can settle a new game plan fir the forwards, while still settling on the best 6 backs – we can still retain the Nestor Cup.
    Always onwards, and again we head upwards Hon Mayo!!

  17. Winning Connaught is realistic, we’ve two div 4 teams and then a relegated div1 team. That 3rd game will be tight, our panel is too deep for the other 2 to beat us.
    I saw enough positives the last day in our play. Off the shoulder running excellent, wide count low. We shipped a fair score but Clare played out with a helluva lot of pride and kicked some great scores any team would be proud of. Clare’s 2nd goal was a one off, nine out of 10 times AOS wins a high ball or against man as big as himself he’ll do the right thing and break it. They had almost got in 10 or 15 secs earlier but with excellent play. I don’t think Clare will be pushed over too easy by Kerry.
    I was dubious about Hession because of inexperience but he seems to have very good balance and pace and may be a starter now after all. Don’t think Brickenden will get in ahead of Eoghan MacL (my tip for the spare half back role) or Plunkett although he took a nice point. Coen just seems to do the right thing so he’s in IMO. Don’t think Jordan Flynn is our midfield backup plan. If Diarmaid missing for first 2 games we could put Aido or Coen there. Ryan OD excellent player but not too scary for defenders one on one, more a half forward if you ask me. I think Carr could do more damage inside or Towey might get in either, his first free from wrong side on 45m line went over very nicely.
    Don’t know why management let Hennelly take that late free when Towey seems to have the required range. Similarly Ryan OD took and scored a free that should’ve been Towey if designated. Conor Loftus I don’t think will get in unless midfield for Diarmaid like early last year. Took a wrong option pass when Clare were closing in and bit too quiet for my liking.
    AOS was really excellent the last day. A huge asset to us.

  18. I want to thank Cillian for all the joy he have given us in the past. I know how dedicated he is and I know he will make a full recovery. I noted people who know more about Mayo GAA than I list all the young upcoming players in the county and had two or three players for each position in the starting fifteen so hopefully they are correct. Horan came on the scene in 2010 and transformed Mayo Football, domineering Connaught and been extremely competitive up to and including the Finals. From 2011 to 2020 we had 17 or 18 players who had what it takes but against Dublin our Subs bench was not as strong as Dublin’s. We were short another top quality player in each of the lines. I believe that Horan knows what he doing and he will need a few years to develop the next team. We are very unlikely to win Connaught this year after six top class retirements in January, two top class players returning from injury in Doherty and Harrison and the best forward in the country injured in Cillian. That’s a total of nine and in all likelihood there will be another one or two who will pick up knocks in games if we reach a Connaught Final

  19. Shuffly Deck. Just read your piece and i would have to agree with your reading of our situation

  20. Gutted for Cillian,he’s been fully injury free pretty much for the first time in years and was in the form of his life last season and this.
    I think he took over the mantle of being Mayos most important player from Aido since last year.
    Can we win Connacht without him? Of course we can,we’re the best team in Connacht even without him.
    The reality of the draw this year meant we would have to beat Dublin then kerry to win Sam,we could beat either in a one off game but i dont think we could beat both in consecutive games,there would be no Sam this year with or without Cillian.
    We won promotion, we will hopefully win Connacht and put in a performance in the semi final.

  21. Does anyone know if Enda Hession plays against Sligo is he ruled out of the U20 championship next month? It looks like Horan sees him as a starter currently.

  22. According to Andy Moran out of 8-80 scored by Mayo in the championship last year 5-40 of that was scored by Cillian, Thats astonishing. Over half of our scores. Its far too great of a dependency we have on him. Ill wager he is right up at the top of our turnover and tackle stats too.

    Its up to the rest of the forwards now to step up, see this not as a blow but as an opportunity. Conroy/ROD/Carr/Towey/Coen etc need to demand it now and say ‘im the man and im going to show it’
    No cillian around to bail us out in the tough games, time to take on the responsibility

  23. This news would put you in bad form, can’t imagine what it must be like for Cillian and everyone involved in the Mayo panel.

  24. he’s not wrong Supermac – i have it as follows per opposition from 2020
    60% Tipperary
    57% Leitrim
    60% Dublin
    47% Roscommon
    29% Galway
    53% of our total scores in Championship football in 2020

  25. and for the detractors – 27 of his 55 points scores (5-12 from 5-40) were from play. that’s 49% of his scores from Play, or to put it another way 26% of Mayo’s scores in last years championship were by Cillian from Play.

  26. All the best to Cillian on road to recovery – if anyone has the mindset to get back on track again in a relatively short stretch it is Cillian. Without doubt imo Cillian and Andy the best forwards in Connaught over last 20 years. He is a huge loss no doubt but we cannot get weighed down with the irreplaceable thinking. We have to believe that Carr and others will get a chance to shine v Sligo. Yes Cillian’s high scoring game will be sorely missed in that game but hopefully that game will inject believe into Ryan or whoever becomes the nominated free taker.
    I expect management might work at finding some positives within the camp in their preparation to retain Connaught. For one Ryan was very impressive at no 11 for most of his last years all ireland final. Returning him to that position might allow Aido to roam from the full forward line and leave two danger men in James and Tommy to ply their trade.
    The absence of Cillian v’s a top 6 side is different to that of a lesser ranked team. Top 6 teams all have at least 2 specialist man markers, Cillian attracts one such marker and perhaps Aido another. That restricted Cillian’s contribution from play when facing such a side. Galway last year being an example where he scored one from play but Tommy and others scored more freely. The top teams will just not put as much attention into that level of man marking with Cillian missing simply because the mindset will be to view as a weaker threat. We will get the opportunity to strongly defend our Connaught title, its up to the lads to make it happen and for us to believe in it again.

  27. Unreal…when you look at our serious injury list in past 10 years and even in the past 5 you would start believing in curses.
    This guy is probably our most important player in my time watching Mayo

  28. I would not at all think this is a career-ending injury. Young people today are much fitter and much more resilient.
    I`m in my late sixties now. But at that age we were never as serious about fitness or well being. We all drank. Some
    of us smoked. I did break a leg once in a game. (tib). It was hard to go back because I was afraid to go into the tackle. But this is different. I would rate his chances very high – – not only a comeback, but a return to full form. As I say, the young guys of today are far more focused.

  29. Exactly evergreenandred plus technology and treatment has moved on so much.This will not end his career but probably will finish this year alright

  30. Really gutted for Cillian! He’s more important to us now than ever given the raft of retirements over the winter. A speedy recovery to him and Diarmuid. Time for the younger guns to stand up now like he did during Horans first term.

  31. Evergreen and Red, I remember Billy Joyce of Killeraren and Galway coming off the field at half time in a Connaught club final in Tuam against Castlebar smoking. It was the coldest day ever I was at a match and a person whose name I won’t mention went for a hot whiskey instead of opening and heating up the dressing room.

  32. Good points Seamus. It’s time for the newer players to come of age. It feels like we need a new beginning now.

    2011 was such a seminal year for Mayo Gaa with the likes of Boyler, Kevin, Lee, Cillian, and Aido exploding onto the scene, defining all the best aspects of Mayo football, but taking it to a completely new level.

    I’m sure there are lads in the panel who can really shine, possibly this year even. However it’s going to take another year or two for a defined team to really take shape. Sam is not, unfortunately, on the agenda this year. The above mentioned players don’t come around too often, and it remains to be seen which of the other current panelists can come even close to their level and to the standards they’ve set.

    If Cillian is indeed out for the championship I hope he remains close to the panel in a mentoring role for the young guns. Cillian is a leader and is inspirational. We can still use him. I’m sure that’s not what he wants to hear right now, but I’m equally sure he’ll do all he can for the cause, whether he’s playing or not.

    The one real positive is that we have two winnable championship matches to open with. Lads will undoubtedly put their hands up and it will afford James Horan a little more priceless time to try out different things. I really couldn’t hazard a guess who’ll catch our eye. Im sure James and McDanger have an idea of how they’re going to set up and the personnel involved.

    We’d all expect the like of Tommy and Eoghan to build on last year, and I think they will, but it’s less clear who else will come to the fore.. There’s no better man than Horan to develop players out of relative obscurity, this arguably being his greatest strength, so there’s reason for hope.

    As mentioned in the podcast, the likes of Brian Walsh could easily slot into Diarmuid role: high octane, skillful and industrious. But who will lead the forward line is a much bigger question… its hard right now to identify anyone even remotely like Cillian, a player who relishes being a real pain for a defence. He truly is a one-off. I just don’t see any other panelist with these attributes, or with Cillians skill levels, obviously. It’s hugely concerning but we were never going to be able to rely on Cillian forever.

    In any event, there has to be a new dawn. And it starts now.

  33. Watched the Clare game again. This won’t be popular but I thought the ref was excellent.

  34. Very sorry to have heard of Cillian and Diarmaid getting such serious injuries, a huge loss to the team and very hard to replace either, a speedy recovery to both as we need them

  35. Jr – the Clare goal from the free was as clear a square ball as you will ever get – yet he didn’t even consult his umpires.
    The time Cillian was fouled for the penalty is a black card under the new rules- which was not given.
    These are two huge decisions which were clear cut that he got wrong.
    I thought he gave some very handy frees to both teams at times. Having said that we really need to brush up on our tackling – leaving the lazy hand in to the tackle is not good enough at this level.

  36. Watched it back on Thursday – hadn’t seen anything until then. Was quite impressed! Championship feel to the game. Our movement was great, with lots of tracking back by Brian Walsh, Ryan, and of course Aido and Cillian. Aido saved on the line before the first Clare goal went in. Clare were good, but O’Neill, with his bandages was an awkward customer near goal; he spent most of the first half on all fours.

    Towey caught my eye as did Enda H. Towey will add something for frees alone. If he gets the right ball anything is possible. Don’t think Eoin OD will enjoy the playback.

  37. Rewatch the Clare match and Lee had a great game, fast, moving at the correct time, handling well and set up a bunch of scores, he’s back!

  38. Best wishes to Cillian for a speedy recovery. Sport can at times be cruel, and the amount of serious injuries that Cillian has suffered in his career are evidence of that.
    Yes, there’s no doubt that his absence will be a massive loss, but there’s nothing we can do now, but knuckle down and get on with the job.

    Thank God for the draw we got in the Connacht Championship, as it allows us to get rid of any dirty diesel before the Connacht Final.
    Despite Cillian’s absence, I don’t agree with those who now doubt our ability to retain our Connacht Title.
    Assuming it’s Galway we play, why such fear of them ?
    What have they done to justify that reputation ?
    They are now a Division 2 team.
    Yes, our chances have been affected, but I expect us to retain our Connacht Title.
    It’s after that, things might get dodgy.

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