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Horan interview gets us talking

Sport

SHARING HIS THOUGHTS Mayo manager James Horan spoke publicly for the first time since the All-Ireland Final on Midwest Radio last week. Pic: Sportsfile

Feature
Edwin McGreal

1 ‘Rift’ rumours
IT was welcome to hear some clarity on the rumours which swept across the county in the days after the All-Ireland Final, namely that selectors Ciarán McDonald and James Burke were set to leave the Mayo set-up.
Horan pushed back hard in his interview on Mid West Radio last week, describing it as ‘incredible with the amount of untruths published’ and said those reporting ought to look at themselves.
He said he has been in contact with Ciarán McDonald ‘four or five times a day’ and the two attended a number of club championship games together the weekend before last.
Horan made light of an interaction with James Burke picked up on TV cameras during the Tyrone game, where they appeared to be vehemently disagreeing. He initially said it looked that way because he couldn’t hear what Burke was saying and asked his selector to repeat himself.
However, he tacitly acknowledged it later in the interview, when asking interviewer Tommy Marren if ‘debate’ isn’t allowed regarding James Burke and other strands.
The thing is there is no problem with a disagreement in general. Anyone who has ever been on a sideline with a team has had rows over what changes need to be made to address particular issues that have arisen. Horan should have just acknowledged as much.
What the specific disagreement was about is anyone’s guess, but it does not appear to be fatal if Burke is back on board.
We can all jump to conclusions over the nature of the discussion, but perhaps we should learn lessons from the rumours circulating that both Burke and McDonald were gone and focus on dealing in facts, instead of wild conjecture.

2 Social media
THE Mayo manager confirmed, once more, that he’s an avid Twitter user and we’d be intrigued to know how much he has used the platform since September 11.
Obviously a bit because he said of the ‘blatant untruths out there’ that ‘your gut reaction would be that if I meet that fella, I’d like to say what actually happened’ but then channeled Winston Churchill by saying ‘if you stop to throw a stone at every dog that barks, you’ll never get anywhere’.
Tommy Marren asked the reasonable follow-up question that, amidst the abuse and wholly irrational debate that social media attracts, there are people making what ‘they believe are valid points about maybe things you didn’t do’ or ‘players who didn’t play the way they should have’.
“That’s fine, that’s football … That’s why we watch sport,” replied Horan.
Which was a fair answer, but it possibly begged some of the fair-minded questions out there to be asked at this juncture.

3 Endorsements

THERE was an interesting discussion around the issue of endorsements and a very reasonable question.
Some people are massively against GAA players getting sponsored cars and other perks from their profile. It can often come across as begrudgery.
There is no doubt, though, that there’s a balance to be struck.
It’s often forgotten that several other players from many other counties have various endorsement deals. For instance, Tyrone’s Conor McKenna has a substantial number but winning an All-Ireland allows the focus to aim only at those on the losing side.
Mayo captain Aidan O’Shea has enjoyed plenty of endorsements. Many more of his colleagues have too, while others have not.
Ensuring that there’s no friction in this regard is something that needs to be managed, but Horan was in agreement in general that endorsements are not an issue. However, he acknowledged the timing of a sponsored interview with his captain appearing in a national paper ahead of the final was an issue.
If nothing else, it put a bullseye on the Mayo captain’s back if the team lost and that is a target plenty of people have only relished taking aim at.
“The timing of the article, etc, wasn’t good … It’s a tricky area. We try to monitor it.
“We’re working full-time with players trying to ensure everything is in balance and, overall, we get very close, sometimes stuff gets through.”
Horan also rightly pointed out the unseen, free gratis work many players, including Aidan O’Shea, undertake. This writer has seen countless examples of this over the years
Getting the balance right between what’s good for the team and allowing players to enjoy some of the trappings of their profile and commitment is not always simple.  

4 Instructive answers
THE most interesting answers were probably around the discussions of the rumours of a rift.
The hosting of a ‘combine’ [trials and tests] in November is telling. While he wouldn’t be drawn on extending his tenure beyond 2022, when his current ‘term’ ends, the hosting of such an event would seem to indicate that Horan is looking further than 12 months down the line.
His favouring of the status quo in the championship structure confirms what we knew, that Proposal B, with the bottom three teams in Division 1 out of the All-Ireland series, may not suit Mayo given their recent league records.
He used a variation of the word ‘disappointed’ six times in his first answer and there can be no doubt he was earnest in this regard.
More curious might be the following comment: “We are absolutely determined to figure it out, take ownership of what worked and what didn’t and come out in 2022 a better and stronger team.”
We’d love to know what he feels worked and didn’t work.
That he said he is already ‘plotting and planning’ with Ciarán McDonald and James Burke for 2022 is telling; including the line he is talking to McDonald ‘four or five times a day’ since the final.
The proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

5 Questions that remain
IT was more of a general interview than a football analysis interview, perhaps as it was broadcast on a current affairs/talkshow on a Monday morning, but there were a few answers James Horan gave that left us wondering.
There has been a lot of criticism of the substitution of Pádraig O’Hora. We have established since he was injured in the warm-up, through a club source. Did this feed into the decision? Likewise, we’d love to know the rationale behind not introducing Brendan Harrison and/or Colm Boyle. Perhaps there were good reasons for this. We’d love to hear them.
These are just three personnel discussions.
There has been much discussion about Mayo’s tactical approach in the final. This writer has set out my views in these pages, which broadly agree with the approach taken, with some qualifications, but there are plenty of people who disagree strongly.
It would be good to ask the manager about these points and find out if he felt his approach was the right one and, if so, what were the factors which stopped it being a winning approach?
Later on, Horan answered ‘100 percent’ to his own question, ‘are there learnings for us as a management from this year?’ We’d love to know what those learnings are.
We will have to wait to 2022 to find out.

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