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Mayo deserve silverware for their efforts: O'Neill

When it comes to retrieving the black box of defeats when silverware was within touching distance for Mayo, former attacker Kevin O'Neill has experience.

He was part of the 1991 minor team that lost the All-Ireland final to Cork. Three years later, the same opposition took care of them in the Under-21 final.

Despite winning an All-Star for right-half forward in his teens in 1993, he had a somewhat fractious relationship with Mayo senior manager John Maughan and watched on frustrated from the bench as Mayo coughed up All-Ireland finals to Meath (1996) and Kerry (1997).

A combination of injury and working and playing his club football in Dublin led to a few years in the wilderness.

When Mickey Moran and John Morrison landed in Mayo, one of the first calls they made was to O'Neill, bringing him back as an important contributor to the attack as he crept into his mid-thirties. But they lost the All-Ireland final of 2006 and the National League final to Donegal the following year.

O'Neill can see that this present side needs to see some reward for their efforts, having lost the last two All-Ireland finals to Donegal and Dublin while in the league they have featured in the final or semi-finals three out of the last four years.

"Mayo haven't brought home the silverware for the amount of effort they have put in," reflected O'Neill this week.

"They have been extremely resilient. A lot of other teams might have thrown their hat at it at this stage but it's a credit to the squad that they persevere and great credit is due to the players and management to keep it going after being kicked back so many times. Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle and all of those boys are still performing at a very high standard."

There is always the theory that league success can give a false indication for anyone preparing for the Championship, but O'Neill feels that any national silverware has to be a good thing.

"I don't know what the messages are internally in the squad but my read on it is that Mayo need these competitive games at this time of year and that they need to get a bit of silverware," he adds.

"I know the players will want to win the league and that will set them up nicely going into the Championship."

This Sunday they take on Derry, a side that mirrors the Mayo team of a couple of years ago, and needing a trophy for vindication of effort.

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