Wed, Mar
1 New Articles

Horan taking the positive approach

Positive approach

Mayo manager bullish ahead of Dublin clash

Mike Finnerty

IF perception is everything in the build-up to red-letter days like next Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final, then Mayo certainly projected a positive and confident image when they welcomed the media to Breaffy House last week.
Manager James Horan, in particular, did an excellent job of telling the world that his team is in a very good place ahead of their reunion with the All-Ireland champions, and there was no shortage of positive vibes from the Mayo camp.
Everything from their “excellent” preparation to their “fantastic” playing resources to their “good” record in Croke Park was emphatically underlined. The team that Horan has built is embracing the challenge of meeting Dublin “head on” and intends to produce the goods next Sunday.
“We like playing in Croker,” he said bullishly. “We’ve done pretty well there. We’ve a good record there, some of our best performances have been there, so when you play a team like Dublin, in front of a full house, that’s absolutely where you want to be.
“We feel we have the game, and the players. We’re prepared well and we can’t wait to get cracking at it. It’ll be pretty close to a full house and that’s where you want to play. We’re really looking forward to it. We can’t wait.”
“I’d be very confident that we’ve improved from last year,” he added later.
“Defensively we’re stronger and smarter, and we’ve got a lot more strings to our bow than we had last year. But it’s all based on the same principles.
“The principles are the same as every successful team in the world; tackle high, high work-rate, pressure, tempo, good skill execution and decision-making.
“There’s no secret to that, and we’re happy that we’re further along the road than we were last year.”
A journalist from a national newspaper wondered if Mayo would have to be ‘perfect’ to upset the odds next weekend? James Horan never flinched as he delivered a typically measured response.
“Absolutely, we’ll have to play at the top of our range. But that’s what we’re always trying to do. We’re confident with how we’ve prepared so far, we’ve still a lot of preparation to do. But we’ll be looking to execute a performance like we know we can give.”
Horan cut a relaxed figure as he faced more than twenty journalists alongside David Clarke (who will captain the team next weekend in the absence of injured skipper Andy Moran) and Barry Moran at the top table of the hotel function room.
One eye-brow raising question about the appointment of Cavan referee Joe McQuillan brought an answer that was as pointed as it was interesting.
“He’s a top class inter-county ref,’” responded the Mayo manager. “There’s a lot of commentary out there that he’s very familiar with the Dublin set-up and, as you said, has reffed a lot of their games and reffed ‘A’ v ‘B’.
“But look, we’re happy with the ref’ that’s appointed. There’s a review committee there for referees that are appointed, that if there was anything, or any questionable decisions, that they’d review that.
“That’s nothing to do with us. We just go with it. I know some Kerry friends last year that might not have been happy with his performance but that’s ‘sin sceal eile’.
“I’m sure that reffing ‘A’ versus ‘B’ games will have no bearing on his performance against us in Croke Park.”
On a very different topic, The Mayo News wondered if the speed of Mayo’s progress under Horan’s watch had happened quicker than he had expected?
“I expected a little bit more,” he replied. “But we’ll have to do with where we’re at at the moment. . There’s always been 20 or 25 footballers in Mayo capable of winning an All-Ireland in my opinion.
“Maybe all the inputs and all that goes with that hasn’t been as good as it should have been. We’re confident that we’re getting a lot of those inputs right and it’s going well at the moment.”