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Diarmuid O'Connor praises 'unbelievable' Tom Parsons ahead of return to Mayo team
Last Updated: 09/01/20 4:11pm
Tom Parsons has been handed a starting berth for the first time since a horror knee injury sustained in May 2018.
The Charlestown Sarsfields man has been named in the Mayo team to face Galway in this weekend's FBD League semi-final against Galway.
Parsons made his competitive return late on in last August's All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Dublin, but will be looking to have a serious impact in 2020 with the benefit of a full pre-season under his belt.
"Ever since the injury happened, Tom has been working to get back," said team-mate Diarmuid O'Connor. "He's unbelievable, doesn't leave any stone unturned.
"A lot of people would have said he'd never play on a football pitch again for his club, never mind his county. The work that fella has put in behind the scenes has been unbelievable. He's been training well the last few weeks. It'll be great to see him back on the pitch this weekend.
"He's a great leader on and off the pitch, just giving advice wherever he can."
Mayo team to face Galway in Sunday's FBD League semi-final
Robert Hennelly; James Stretton, James McCormack, Brendan Harrison; Padraig O'Hora, Michael Plunkett, Patrick Durcan; Tom Parsons, Mikey Murray; Brian Walsh, Conor Loftus, Jordan Flynn; Kevin McLoughlin, Brian Reape, Diarmuid O'Connor
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Return of the Mac
Mayo are busy finalising preparations for their bid to defend the National League title, and James Horan has enlisted the services of county legend Ciaran McDonald.
"When I first started watching football in Mayo, Ciaran was at the height of his career," explained O'Connor.
"It's great to have him involved now. He's already done a lot of work in his own club with underage football. [He has] great experience, great knowledge.
"I've only joined in with the panel the last week or two so I haven't worked with him that much. But I've already got little nuggets off him.
"Just talking to the other players, you would hear of them getting advice off him. Anywhere he can offer advice he does and it's great to have him around.
"So far it's been more one-on-one stuff. He wouldn't be one of the biggest talkers in the dressing-room so far but that might change as the year goes on.
"I've only been there a couple of weeks so I haven't worked that closesly with him yet but I'm looking forward to working with him for the rest of the year."
2019 was a year of promise for the Connacht county, which ended in ultimate disappointment as Dublin staged a second-half comeback to seal a dominant 10-point victory.
Given the position Mayo had found themselves in at half-time, it was a tough pill to swallow.
"You just have to park it, learn from it," reflected the Ballintubber man.
"You can't just completely forget about it, you have to look at what went wrong and why they went wrong. Just taking any learnings you can from it and putting them into practice over the last few weeks, just trying to improve on them for the new season."
You just have to park it, learn from it.
He is keen to put the Dublin defeat in the rearview mirror
They'll have an early chance to exact a degree of revenge when the Sky Blues come to Castlebar in the coming weeks.
"Going up to Donegal in the first round and then having Dublin at home in the second round, two tough games but there's no easy games in Division 1 but it's great to have those games," O'Connor continued. "You learn more from those games than you would in any training session so yeah, we're looking forward to the challenge."
And as they embark on the new season, the two-time Young Footballer of the Year is confident that the panel is in as good a place as ever:
"It was great to see fresh blood coming through and this year will be more different, there's a few new lads involved. They're just working hard, pushing on the older lads. The competition for places is huge and it's great to see.
"Last year, the competition for places was the strongest since I've been involved. I can't see this year being any different, with a couple of more players being in.
"Hopefully we can get the year off to a good start."