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Horan deserves ‘huge credit’

Sport

FROM THE ARCHIVES Then Mayo manager James Horan and selector Tom Prendergast pictured after the 2013 All-Ireland SFC semi-final win over Tyrone at Croke Park. Pic: Sportsfile

Oisín McGovern

A FORMER selector on the Mayo senior team has said the county’s football supporters should give ‘huge credit’ to James Horan, who ‘stepped away’ as team manager yesterday (Monday) after concluding his four-year term.
Tom Prendergast, who was part of Horan’s management team for both the 2012 and 2013 seasons which ended with All-Ireland final defeats to Donegal and Dublin respectively, said that Horan has made an ‘immense’ contribution to Mayo football.
Speaking to The Mayo News shortly after news broke of Horan’s desparture, Prendergast described him as ‘the leader’ who commanded ‘huge respect among the players’.
“You compare where Mayo are at compared to Cork, Kildare, Meath… Mayo probably have less right to be strong than those counties have, considering where our location is and the population base and the resources available,” said Prendergast.
“For us to be the county that stood up to the juggernaut that was Dublin reflects tremendously well on the players, in particular, and also on James as the leader.”
Prendergast, who is a nephew of the late, great Paddy Prendergast, an All-Ireland winner in 1950 and 1951, also said that Mayo became ‘consistently competitive’ under Horan instead of producing ‘one-off performances’ like in previous eras.
“From the beginning of his tenure that was always something that was achieved and built on year on year,” said the Ballintubber native.
“Through his second coming he managed to maintain that in the face of losing really significant players.”
Prendergast said Mayo’s continued competitiveness under Noel Connelly, Pat Holmes and Stephen Rochford’s stewardship reflected ‘hugely positively’ on Horan.
“Mayo were the single county that were consistently a thorn in Dublin’s side,” said Prendergast.
“We never quite managed to beat them on the very biggest days but we battled right to the end with them on so many occasions.
“It’s hard to put your finger on how we didn’t come away with at least one [All-Ireland] win, but we didn’t.
“James brought that huge alignment through the group, a massive work ethic, and clarity in terms of what everybody’s role was.
“The team had a real identity and a huge connection with the Mayo fanbase that created that huge energy on the biggest days,” he added.
“I think there was that symbiotic relationship between the team and the fans and I think James had a huge role in that as the overall architect of it.”
Prendergast said that Horan instilled belief in the players before big games, such as the 2013 Connacht SFC quarter-final win over Galway and the All-Ireland quarter-final against Donegal later that season.
“I think it was that ability to get the players to realise that they were authors of their own destiny,” he explained.
“I think that year the guys played with so much confidence, so much belief and so much clarity [around] what it is that we were going to do.
“James brings huge clarity to what he’s doing, he communicates very effectively and he’s got a real sense of purpose.
“He has a self-confidence that transmits to the group, similar to Jim Gavin in some respects.
“To outsiders they are very reserved, quiet kind of people, but within the groups they command they’d be seen as charismatic kind of leaders. It mightn’t always be apparent to outsiders, but James would have held the group in the palm of his hand the same way as Jim Gavin did with Dublin.
“James was the leader, that was never in doubt. And he engendered huge respect amongst the group,” he added.
Tom Prendergast, who managed Ballintubber to a county final in 2017, said he was ‘not surprised’ that Horan had stepped down from his position, which he described as ‘a very difficult role’.
“The time commitment required is massive and the pressure has increased as well, expectation levels have increased as well, the spotlight and the focus has increased across the spectrum,” he concluded.

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