1. Practice is name of game
DESPITE the varying degrees of opposition that Mayo encountered in their three outings, the heavy conditions and the experimental line-ups, it was hard not to notice their handling and ball skills.
This is an area that James Horan prioritised more than two years ago and his coaching staff have tackled vigorously on the training field.
Hundreds of hours have been spent by the players working on the fundamental skills of hand-passing, kick-passing, handling and shooting since Horan took charge. They are tested regularly on these ‘basic’ skills and, with the exception of a few high-profile examples in last year’s All-Ireland Final, the results speak for themselves.
After losing to Leitrim and Sunday’s draw with Roscommon, Horan lamented the ‘basic mistakes’ that caught his eye. He said the same thing last September so Donie Buckley is bound to be busy over the next few weeks.
2. There is work to be done
ANYBODY who has ever watched a team prepared by James Horan in action, or talked football to the man, knows that his entire philosophy boils down to two words: hard work.
He believes industry and graft underpin all other aspects of Mayo’s plan of action and doesn’t tolerate any apathy in this regard.
Just take their first game against Leitrim as an example; despite the fact that his players had just returned from a week-long holiday in America, he had this to say after they were beaten by a point: “The mistakes and our general decision-making, I’m okay with that, but our work-rate was disappointing. We got a bit lazy.”
There was nothing to be learnt from the kickabout against GMIT but, after the Roscommon game, the manager admitted that ‘not everybody was at the optimum level of fitness’ just yet. The hard work starts now.
3. Opportunity knocks
IT was interesting to hear James Horan remark that his priority for the FBD League was ‘finding three or four players that can walk straight on to a National League team’.
Striking a balance between winning league matches and blooding new talent is always difficult but, by the sound of things, unearthing some new options and strengthening the bench ahead of next summer’s championship is now more important than short-term gain.
Based on Mayo’s team selections so far, Michael Walsh, Keith Rogers and Tom Cunniffe are at the top of the queue for defensive options while Cathal Carolan and Conor O’Shea have been given a chance up front.
Alan Murphy and Brian Gallagher are others ‘in the frame’ while Horan will also be keeping a keen eye on the progress of Tony Duffy’s U-21 brigade in the months ahead.
If Danny Kirby finds his form he could also feature this spring.