Horan: We won’t carry baggage to Croker

MAYO manager James Horan doesn’t believe Kerry have a psychological advantage over his county despite losing three All-Ireland finals and a quarter-final to the Kingdom since 1997.

The Ballintubber native was wing-forward on the last Mayo side to beat Kerry in an All-Ireland semi-final in 1996 but since then the Kingdom have won the last four encounters 8-63 to 6-39, an average comfortable victory of more than seven points per game.

“Kerry have a psychological hold over a lot of teams, I suppose,” he said. “But no, not particularly [over Mayo]. You can link and trend anything really for any team if you want to go that route, but not for this team and not for where we are at the moment. We’re just looking to keep it fairly simple and training and won’t be listening to much outside of that.”

Since taking over in his debut year at inter-county level, he’s introduced a new emphasis on physicality and a defensive system more suited to the modern game.

“Yeah, well, we sat down at the start of the year and looked at what were some of the potential gaps in the team.

“Maybe fitness and strength and conditioning was something we knew was never very high in the pecking order with Mayo teams so we looked to address that and put in a good training programme that obviously looks to have you strong when you need to be strong and has you fit and powerful when you need to be fit and powerful, so that’s worked pretty well for us this year.”

His side have also garnered a reputation for being a strong second-half team, but knows past failings against the kingpins came down to poor starts which left them with too much to do. On Sunday he’ll be hoping his side can put in a 70-minute performance. If not, he knows Kerry will put them to the sword.

“There are a few teams this year with a reputation for that but yeah, we’ve done very well.

He added: “It’s not something you consciously plan to do but maybe some of the weather conditions lent a hand to that as well.

“But look, we’ll certainly need to start well on Sunday. If history has taught us anything, it’s that if you don’t start well against Kerry it can be over very quickly.”

It is a far different approach from the preparations used by the Mayo and Kerry sides of 15 years ago when they played out an open 2-13 to 1-10 thriller. Horan, on his way to an All Star, helped himself to 1-1 that day and hopes his players will enjoy a similar experience this Sunday.

“We had a good day that day and again I don’t think we were given much chance that day. Yeah, we had a strong team.

“It’s Kerry again but we’ll be looking at our game on Sunday. Playing in an All-Ireland semi-final up in Croke Park is where you want to be and you want to play as good as you can.

“There’s a lot of differences [now]. The game has changed a lot and the Mayo team is very different to the Mayo team back then — but you’re looking for the same outcome.”

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