MAYO manager James Horan says he intends to take ‘the same approach as any other year’ as he heads into the final season of his four-year term.
Horan has won a National League and two Connacht championship titles in the last three seasons, along with leading Mayo to back-to-back All-Ireland Final appearances.
In total, between his two stints, this is his eighth season in charge of his native county.
“The same approach as any other year, looking at players, looking at the games ahead, looking at the season, and at what we can do and where we can go, and identifying things we want to work on as a group,” Horan said when asked by The Mayo News what his approach would be going into his last season of his current term.
“Then when you get close to the season, the logistics and everything that goes with it, it becomes all consuming and away it goes,” he added.
“When you’re managing Mayo you just want to do the best you can and develop the players as much as you can and see where that goes.
“There’ll always be other managers and teams that will grow and change etc. So when I'm in there, I'm just going to try and do the best I can with the players that are there.”
Horan (51) spoke to members of the local media on Monday night and confirmed that five-time All Star Lee Keegan had returned to training ahead of the start of Mayo’s National League Division 1 campaign against Donegal in Sligo next Sunday.
He also explained that he expects Kevin McLoughlin to link up with the squad ‘in a couple of weeks’ as the Knockmore man recovers from a lengthy club campaign with Knockmore.
“Lee is back training with us, going well,” said the Mayo boss.
“We’ve training tomorrow night so we'll see where things are at but he's fine. Lee loves running and during the off-season will always keep himself in very, very good shape. He’s in extremely good shape and in with the group.
“I’ve spoken to Kevin [McLoughlin], he isn’t with us at the moment,” he added.
“The club season isn't long over, I think Kevin has had 15 seasons at this stage so he’s taking a week or two. But Kevin will be back with us in a couple weeks.”
Mayo will be without Enda Hession and Cillian O’Connor for next Sunday’s game due to their respective injuries.
Horan had this to say in relation to O’Connor’s rehab from a ruptured Achilles tendon.
“The last time I was talking to ye [on Friday week last] that phase of rehab was going very, very well.
“The next phase is a bit slower, but it looks like round four or round five of the league [when he is back]. Or around that, I could be a round or two out there.
“But hopefully we’ll see something there.”
Horan said that Fergal Boland had ‘picked up a knock’ hurling with Tooreen last weekend, ‘but will hopefully be okay’ .
“Jason Doherty is going well and in the mix,” he continued. |”Conor McStay [Ballina Stephenites] picked up an injury a couple of weeks ago. He was playing very well for us, but he’s out of contention for a couple more weeks.
“Mark Moran is back on the field and training well, so that’s good.”
Meanwhile, Horan also said he felt Mattie Ruane’s two-game suspension — arising from being red-carded in last September’s All-Ireland Final defeat to Tyrone — was ‘harsh’.
Ruane will miss Mayo’s opening league games against both Donegal and Monaghan.
“I think it’s harsh,” said Horan. “When it’s different years, different competitions almost. . .
“You know, you see players getting this weekend in a provincial competition and it doesn't have any impact on the National League. So it seemed harsh.
“But it is what it is. We knew at the end of last season, so we've dealt with that and moved on. Mattie’s training well, he knows he's out of contention for the first few games.
“But again, there's other guys itching to get some game-time.”
Listen to the interview here
You can read much more from James Horan’s wide-ranging interview in next week’s edition of The Mayo News.