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James Horan gets his message across at function


James Horan. Pic: Conor McKeown

Mike Finnerty

THERE was no doubt about the standout moment at last Friday’s Cáirde Mhaigh Eo Christmas Lunch at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin.
You only had to listen to the audible gasp among the 250 people in the room when Mayo manager James Horan uttered the words: ‘I came back to win the All-Ireland.’
Sure, it was what all Mayo supporters suspected (or knew full well) anyway, but to hear him say the words out loud certainly caught us all by surprise!
He added that he wasn’t entirely sure if that would happen in 2019 or not, but he said he was ‘determined’ that it would not be for the want of trying, training or preparation.
In fact, Horan’s entire interview last Friday was the highlight of another enjoyable and extremely successful annual event for the official Mayo GAA Supporters’ club.
He was engaging, open, honest, frank, and left nobody in the room in any doubt about his determination to ensure that Mayo will be ready for battle when the serious business begins in the New Year.
Horan also outlined his belief that it’s imperative that Mayo make MacHale Park ‘into a fortress again’ — beginning with the opening National League match at home to Roscommon on Saturday, January 26.
Referring to his initial meeting with his provisional squad in Castlebar last month, he also outlined how he had told the players that ‘total and utter commitment and buy-in’ was the only way in which they were going to improve and be successful.
During his chat on stage, Horan revealed that two members of his backroom team recently visited the American football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, to glean some insights into their set-up while another was at Arsenal FC in London doing something similar.
All in all, if the Mayo manager’s intention was to send a message to the members of his squad and the Mayo supporters in the room, then it got through loud and clear.
He means business.
It was interesting also to hear Andy Moran, Jason Doherty and Paddy Durcan talk about the ups and downs of last season, and how they balance family life, jobs and college with playing senior inter-county football.
Spare a thought too for the former Mayo captain, David Heaney, who told the story of how only one of the teenagers in the Mayo Under-14 squad that he helps to coach had ever seen Ciaran McDonald play — and that was on You Tube!
Another of Heaney’s old team-mates, David Brady, put in a sensational display when called upon at the last-minute to help with a fund-raising auction last Friday.
Nobody was safe as ‘DB’ went hunting for potential bidders with his eagle-eyes!
But the biggest round of applause of the day was reserved for David Sweeney from Swinford, a teenager who has been battling illness in recent years but is starting to win that fight.
The Mayo football fanatic enjoyed every second of a memorable Mayo GAA occasion.

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