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Horan sets out his stall

Sport

ONES TO WATCH Eoin O’Donoghue (left) and Stephen Coen are likely to be two of the players that James Horan will be looking to develop next season. Pic: Sportsfile

Talking Tactics

Billy Joe Padden

IT’S been interesting to hear James Horan getting his message across over the last few weeks.
He’s made it very clear that he’s not interested in a ‘one and done’ approach to managing Mayo. He’s back to build a team and a squad, and players will have realised by now that they’ll have to commit to this project for a few years.
For the older guys, this will leave them with a decision to make. Maybe the likes of Andy Moran, Colm Boyle or Keith Higgins can’t commit to four years, but can they commit to one or two years of being a positive influence in a squad? Can they be part of a panel and help to mentor players?
I know from my own experience, you just have to go with your gut. And I think players will know before they even talk to James Horan what it is they want to do.
Unless there’s a personality clash there, or it’s just not possible to go on, I think most of them will commit because they’re team players who will want to play their part.
James Horan has been preaching the same message in any of the interviews I’ve seen and heard, and that doesn’t surprise me.
What else can he say? The only way this Mayo team can get better is if it’s added to and developed. Buying players isn’t an option so developing and improving the footballers who are available to you is the only way to go.
In terms of the trials for club players, I think regardless of what happens in those games, Horan knows the 15 lads that he will want to pick out and maybe take a closer look at.
But those trial matches will still tell the Mayo management how badly certain guys ‘want it’. How they present themselves, mentally and physically, will tell a tale. Horan will want to see guys busting a gut to make a good impression.
I know there’s been a lot of talk about Horan’s intention to take a more hands-on ‘head coach’ style role in the new Mayo set-up.
I have to say that I’m very positive about the prospect. Because if you’re going to improve players, then you set the tone for that on the training pitch. It energises a squad to see the manager in the thick of things every night.
It tells players that this guy is invested and really interested in making us them better.
I’d be fairly sure that managers like Jim Gavin and Mickey Harte spend a lot of time in the middle of training sessions and drills.
And that’s a style of manager and coach that I’d like to play under. Someone who takes that hands-on approach.
The sort of players I think Horan has in mind to try and develop in his first season are guys with some experience under their belt already — Stephen Coen, Conor Loftus, Cian Hanley, David Drake, Eoin O’Donoghue and James Durcan. He will be aiming to get all of them up to the next level.
The reality is that you probably won’t see too many of this year’s Mayo Under-20 team featuring in big league or championship games. It takes time to get up to the pace and tactical demands of senior inter-county football.
Although I would say that it’s probably a little easier for half-backs to break into a team, because there’s less for them to learn and do in a tactical sense. If they’re athletic and can get up the field, they’re going to spend a lot of time facing the ball.
It’s a different story for a forward trying to break through.
There’s no doubt that James Horan will have a squad good enough to win a Connacht title, and that will be his goal. Just don’t expect to hear him say it in public for a while yet.

Championship draw works out well

WE’RE still almost seven months away from the craziness that is Mayo’s trip to New York, so it’s hard to get too excited by last week’s draw for the 2019 championship.
But there was still a distinct pang of relief when the news came through that Mayo had managed to avoid Galway for the first time since 2015.
The reality is that right now it suits Mayo to avoid playing them until as late as possible.
Mayo have lost to Galway far too often in the last few years, and that has to stop.
But in order for Mayo to be ready for them, they need to get New York out of the way, be ready for the step-up to play Leitrim or Roscommon, and then make the step-up for a Connacht Final against Galway in Salthill.
The Mayo players will realise that this draw means a gradual lift in performance will be needed from game to game as the summer progresses. That is exactly what you want.
This Mayo squad are better suited to playing a team like Roscommon than they are a team like Galway. They can overpower the Rossies around the middle of the field, with a possible midfield partnership of Aidan O’Shea and Diarmuid O’Connor making it an even more exciting prospect next summer.
As I’ve said many times over the years, I want to see O’Shea doing ‘midfield things’ more than anything else.
That’s what he’s best at.
Just a thought on Stephen Rochford to finish: I really hope that he’s not focusing too much on the all the shenanigans that went on around his departure. Because, unfortunately, that sort of stuff happens in every county.
It’s more important, I think, that he goes back and reflects on what he did during his time as Mayo manager. Most of it was positive, but if wants to coach and manage again, then it’s important he learns from the Mayo experience.

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