The manager had media eating out of his hand
THERE are many words one might associate with James Horan – unassuming, calm, composed, measured – but ‘hilarious’ wouldn’t normally be one of them.
Yet from the start of the post-match press conference, James Horan had the media eating out of the palm of his hand.
The deadpan mock cockiness in his response that everything had gone “according to plan” drew some amused responses, but Aidan O’Shea quickly retorted: “I don’t know why ye’re laughing!”
Later, asked to describe the mood at half time, two points down, Horan replied: “It was easy; we’re usually four points down.” James, it’s the way you tell ’em.
He was able to dodge bullets too – asked (by a Kerryman, no less) whether he agreed with the notion that Cork had “died very poorly” for All-Ireland champions, Horan stuck to Mayo’s side of the story, saying: “We kept going … we worked for every single ball”.
And when a Mayo hack said that Cork were “supposed to wipe the floor with ye”, the Ballintubber man replied: “I didn’t hear that at all, who would have mentioned that? Stuff like that is a small part of it to be honest. We focussed all year just on what we could do.”
“We’re delighted with the win,” said the manager. “Our aim today was to come up and play as well as we can and work as hard as we could. Fortunately we out-worked and out-fought the opposition and that was the bedrock of the game.”
Asked about the “big difference” in Mayo’s performance on Sunday from what they had produced at provincial level, Horan commented: “The games in Connacht probably weren’t great to watch but the conditions were terrible.
“I suppose we know what we’re capable of as a team from the training we do. We’d four or five sessions every week. We’ve been ... building all year. We’ve played some poor games but we’ve got through every single one of them and kept building …
“Today was our best performance of the year to date but we know we need to go another step if we’re to progress.”
He admitted that Mayo were “a bit shell-shocked” in the first 15 minutes, when Cork were “on top” and won eight of the first nine breaks.
“We conceded a soft goal”, he noted, and “it took a while for us really to play like we should. When we sorted that out we dominated the majority of the rest of the game.”
Improving the breaking ball stats allowed Mayo to win “the majority of possession” and “get the ball into Andy [Moran] and the guys inside, who did a lot of damage”.
As they had in the Connacht final, Mayo conceded just one point after half time so, Horan noted, “we must be doing something right” in the second half.
“You saw the tackling and the work-rate there today; whenever a Cork player got the ball there were two or three guys around him … There are fantastic footballers on our team. We just maybe haven’t shown it as often as we could. If we get our team working hard we’ll be competitive and you saw evidence of that today.”
“Fitness is important but the discipline in some of our tackling today was close to the edge but very good. We were aggressive in the tackle and got the hands out when we needed to and conceded very few frees in the second half.”
Kerry will, he says, represent “a huge challenge” but “you want to be up here playing the best teams”. Asked how he could keep a lid on Mayo euphoria, Horan responded: “Like we’ve done all year. You haven’t seen us jumping around the place or shouting our mouths off in the press …
“We’ll have our recovery session tomorrow [Monday] and we’ll train on Tuesday and we’ll keep our heads down and keep working as hard as we can to try and be as good as we can when the semi-final comes around.. I think Mayo people are a bit more cautious than they may have been so I don’t think that will be an issue.”