1. Attitude is still everything
IN this newspaper last week James Horan spoke of how he and his team intended to meet Cork ‘head on’ and ‘have a go’ at the All-Ireland champions.
The Mayo manager’s conversation was palpably positive and defiant; there was an unmistakable air of self-assurance in his voice.
It is now patently obvious that Horan wasn’t just talking for the sake of talking; he, his backroom team, and the Mayo players intended to make a statement.
From the moment the quarter-final draw paired them with Cork, Mayo were written off. They were instantly installed as 5/1 outsiders, Joe Brolly remarked that Cork would ‘wipe the floor’ with them, and pundits queued up to preview a Kerry-Cork semi-final rematch.
This was grist to Mayo’s mill. They trained twice last week and James Horan steeled his players for the task ahead. The message was reinforced again at a team meeting in the Regency Airport Hotel in Dublin on Saturday night. And the actions spoke louder than any words.
2. The ‘other’ O’Shea can play
THE decision to pair the O’Shea brothers together in the Mayo midfield after the London debacle has proved to be a smart decision.
They have given the team a physical presence and an abrasive edge around the middle that had been missing from that sector since the likes of David Brady walked off into the sunset.
Aidan, who is both eloquent and confident, has become the public face of the partnership. He also put in a big shift against Roscommon to help get the job done.
However, last Sunday was Seamus’s day to shine. In only his fifth championship game, the Breaffy midfielder turned in a superb display and eclipsed both the Young Footballer of the Year Aidan Walsh and Alan O’Connor.
O’Shea caught ball (from both the Mayo and Cork kick-outs) put in hits, ferried possession towards the Cork goal, and worked selflessly for the cause. No job was too big or too small.
Long may it continue.
3. James Horan’s stock is rising
FROM pillar to post last Sunday the Mayo manager remained calm and composed. Every time the TV cameras honed in on him, James Horan was coolness personified, even when Mayo fell behind by six points (0-1 to 1-4) after fifteen minutes.
His demeanour was a throwback to his playing days when Horan did his best work on the big day, on the big stage. Very little seems to faze him — on the outside at the very least!
Tactically, the Mayo manager did very little wrong either.
He switched Ger Cafferkey (who picked up an early yellow card) off Donnacha O’Connor, detailed Trevor Mortimer to pick up (and shut down) Paddy Kelly, and shifted Andy Moran into the full-forward line during the second quarter. The Mayo vice-captain went on to produce a man of the match performance.
Meanwhile, the collective Mayo performance would suggest that the players have bought into their manager’s measured approach. The rebuilding job is coming along nicely.