By Micil Glennon
Cillian O’Connor says establishing a level of consistency was the most pleasing aspect of Mayo's league campaign this year, despite losing four games.
The corner-forward hit two late frees as his side beat Cork by a point at the weenend to qualify for an Allianz Football League semi-final against Dublin in Croke Park on Sunday.
“Consistency is something we’ve been looking for in the last couple of years,” he told RTÉ Sport.
“Looking at the league, although we lost a few games, we are happy enough with the consistency we’ve shown. We’re just glad that we’ve got another competitive game to look forward to in Croker, especially against the Dubs.
“It’s great to challenge yourself against the form team in the league.
"With so many dangerous players, they’re probably going to have a headache picking the team at the weekend because there are so many people pushing [for a place]. It’s great to test yourself against the best.”
"It’s great to test yourself against the best” - Cillian O'Connor
James Horan’s men were beaten by Tyrone, Dublin, Down and Kildare, but only lost by a combined margin of eight points in those games.
O’Connor added: “We were competitive in all of the games. We didn’t get comprehensively beaten in any of them, we were there or thereabouts until the last couple of minutes and a couple of bad decisions and errors cost us.
“We knew we weren’t doing everything wrong. We just stayed patient and stuck to our game plan."
While the Ballintubber clubman admits that the league is a stepping stone for the summer fare, he knows that the extra game, or games if they beat the 2011 All-Ireland champions, and the Croke Park experience can be invaluable.
“It’s not Championship but it’s as close as you’re going to get – league semi-final, knockout.
"It will be a good experience for some of the younger players like myself and some of the lads coming back from injury, it will be great to get a full game under their belt.
"We want to win the game and try and get through to the final,” he said.