By Eoghan Cormican
The raft of emerging talent coming through, James Horan has revealed, is a significant factor in his decision to seek a second stint as Mayo football manager.
Horan and 2016 All-Ireland U21 winning manager Michael Solan were the two names last week put forward by clubs in the county to succeed Stephen Rochford. Having held the role from 2011-14, during which he guided Mayo to back-to-back All-Ireland final appearances, Horan believes “exciting times” lie ahead for the county.
“I’m a Mayo man, I love coaching, I’m involved in coaching for a number of years now. There’s a very good team there and I just think it’s a very good time in Mayo football. We have a Centre of Excellence being developed, we’ve some very good underage players coming through. You saw Colm Moran and a few of them that I’ve been involved with in Westport [as manager], so I’d be very excited about what’s coming through as regards the youth talent that’s in Mayo.
From the Mayo U21 team which scored All-Ireland glory two years ago, only five have since gone on to play championship at senior level. Horan is confident there’s a new wave of talent coming through, which needs to be properly harnessed.
“I’d have a philosophy on how I think the game can be played, the steps that Mayo could take. Through what Liam Moffat has done with the coaching academy, I think there’s a lot of very good coaches around Mayo and a lot of bright ideas starting to take shoot. It’s important that all of that is aligned and linked up.
“If you take Westport as a microcosm of the young talent that’s coming through, we’ve played Claremorris and there’s a lot of young talent there; we played Belmullet, lots of young players there; and we played Ballaghadereen.
“So even in that, there are 10 or 12 players I would think are very close, if not ready, to be introduced to county. So it’s all those things. I think, could be pulled together.”
Since it became public knowledge that his own club, Ballintubber, had proposed him for the vacant post, Horan revealed a number of “high-calibre” people have been in touch with regard to lending a hand so as to get Mayo to football’s summit.
“Since my name has gone forward, I don’t know how many CVs of people from around the country that I’ve got in my Inbox wanting to be involved in Mayo football. Some people with a lot of expertise and a lot of experience. So, it just shows you the ticket that Mayo football is. There are a lot of high calibre people out there who want to be involved.”
To no surprise, Horan didn’t allow himself get caught up in talk of bridging Mayo’s 67-year All-Ireland famine.
“My initial thoughts, and this is going to bore the life out of you, are that I don’t know if All-Irelands and outcomes like that are what’s important right now.