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James Horan’s ‘exhilarating’ high-wire act goes on

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Horan’s ‘exhilarating’ high-wire act goes on


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Daniel Carey

FACING a formidable opponent and against all the odds, he briefly glimpsed the promised land before ultimately living to fight another day. But enough about Homer Simpson’s attempt to jump Springfield Gorge on a skateboard. Last Sunday, Mayo produced a daredevil performance to rank with the best of them, and James Horan said he ‘couldn’t be any prouder’ of the display Mayo served up.
Amidst the battery of phones and recording devices in front of him at the post-match press conference, the Mayo manager found himself holding a giant yellow Today FM microphone at the request of one radio reporter, who helpfully told him: “Just talk into it”. We’re guessing the Process Quality Assurance Manager at Coca-Cola had probably figured that one out for himself.
We’re not sure how much of the ten-minute post-match press conference aired on the independent national station, but there were a few zingers suitable for extraction. The decision to stage the replay in Limerick at 5pm on Saturday was, Horan suggested, ‘bizarre’, and the game should be played at Croke Park on Saturday week. Lee Keegan’s dismissal was, he said, ‘not a sending-off – no way’. The briefing ended with the Ballintubber clubman confirming Mayo’s intentions to have the replay played at Headquarters. He also said they plan to appeal the suspension for Keegan who, he said, was guilty of nothing more than ‘a shrug to try and shake’ his man off, ‘more than a kicking action’.
Among those news lines which had the national media lads licking their lips (one hack actually used the phrase ‘hold the back page’ in a mobile-phone conversation afterwards), Horan’s analysis of the game also provoked food for thought. It had, he said, been ‘exhilarating to watch’. Mayo ‘probably should have won it’ but ‘could have lost it’.
The third quarter was ‘probably as good as any team has played’ during his four years in charge. And he had ‘nothing but huge pride’ for the group of players in his charge.
“I thought we were excellent in the second half,” he began. “We drove on and played the game that we’re always trying to look to play – [an] attacking-based game with [a] high tempo and [a] huge skill set. I think when we do that, we’re a dangerous team.
“[In] the first half we were a little bit tentative – we were slow, we were running into tackles, we were trying to hand-pass the ball, loop it over guys … we were just off it a little bit, and it could have cost us … Maybe [that was down to] the Kerry set-up. We were a bit in no-man’s land with one or two things that they did, so it took us a while to figure that out.
“But the display in the second half was just great to see. The leadership shown by the guys was just terrific … they weren’t gonna lose today.”
Going to Limerick for the replay ‘doesn’t make any sense to me’, Horan added. “I think it’s bizarre … but we’ll play wherever. It’s not ideal, and I’m pretty surprised it’s the case, but … we’ll check it out during the week, and we’ll be ready, wherever it’s played … [But] it’s bizarre that there’s an All-Ireland semi-final that can’t be played in Croke Park.”
The funniest moment came towards the end of the discussion, when one journalist suggested (correctly, it turns out) that the 1951 All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry had gone to a replay. Horan rolled his eyes, shook his head, and said: “I just haven’t the energy to answer that!”
Like the rest of us, he was drained.

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