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Horan stays on message

Sport

PENNY FOR HIS THOUGHTS Mayo manager James Horan and ‘Maor Uisce’ Tom Higgins are pictured before the final whistle last Saturday. Pic: David Farrell Photography

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Mike Finnerty

SECONDS after the final whistle in last Saturday evening’s defeat to Roscommon, James Horan was asked by a young Mayo supporter to sign the back of his Cúl Camp training top.
Horan obliged, then went and shook Anthony Cunningham’s hand, before disappearing down the tunnel under the MacHale Park stand with the Mayo players.  
When he re-emerged to speak to reporters a short time later, Horan used words like ‘disappointed’, ‘improvement’ and ‘work very hard’ throughout the relatively short conversation.
As ever, it was hard to get a read on his emotions as he kept his true feelings to himself, and the key words and messages that we’ve heard all year were on a repeat-cycle.
Whatever was going to be said to the Mayo players behind closed doors was not going to be shared with the rest of us.
“We’re disappointed with the defeat obviously,” he began when asked by Rob Murphy of The Mayo News Football Podcast for his initial reaction to Mayo’s first championship defeat to the Rossies for 18 years.
“We could have snuck it in the end, we had a very good chance to go a point up with time over but didn’t take it.
“In fairness to Roscommon, they came down and got the [winning] score.
“But we’d be disappointed with how we played overall.
“We’d fifteen or sixteen wides and two or three into the goalie’s hands, you’re not going to win many games when you do that.
“But good luck to Roscommon, they deserved their win today.”
Horan was then asked why he felt Mayo hadn’t pushed on after Fergal Boland kicked them into the lead on the hour mark. They failed to score in the final 15 minutes.
“I think we made poor decisions,” he replied.
“Again, our shot selection was poor. We had a number blocked down, a number wide, we kicked under too much pressure, maybe we just didn’t back ourselves enough to make sure that we took the right shot at the right time.
“Fifteen or sixteen wides is just too many.”
He was then asked if complacency may have been a factor.
“I don’t think so. Roscommon are a very good team, I’ve been saying that for weeks. They obviously got two early goals, they were two poor goals from our point of view but they got them so that took us a while to get back from.
“We did in the second half, but we just couldn’t finish it out.”
Horan batted away a suggestion that ‘mileage’ of some of the older Mayo players may have been a factor, but admitted that Cillian O’Connor was sorely missed given the number of scores that were left behind from missed frees.
“Yeah, we missed a lot of frees there tonight. Robbie [Hennelly] took a few, Evan [Regan] took a few, and obviously we missed the last one which was disappointing.”
On that last-gasp free that was missed by Kevin McLoughlin, Horan was asked if captain Diarmuid O’Connor had ‘taken control of the situation’ when the free was awarded.
“That seems to be what happened there yeah, Kevin stood up and took it. So there you go.”