Mayo hungry for battle, says Horan

Mayo manager James Horan has promised his team will be “fresh and hungry” for tomorrow evening’s All-Ireland SFC quarter-final against Down at Croke Park.

The Connacht champions have played just two games in the last 14 weeks, including last month’s hard-fought provincial final victory over Sligo.

However, Horan says he’s looking forward to a “fast, high-tempo match” when Mayo lock horns with Down for the very first time in the championship this weekend.

“It’s a big game in Croker and we’ve got to do our stuff now,” he said.

“The lads love playing up there and I would feel that a lot of the attributes we have are suited to Croke Park. Plus, the more times you play there, the better. You get used to the environment, the set-up, the dressingrooms, the times, all that kind of stuff.

“That’s all very important, that you get there as often as you can. The more you get familiar with the place, the more comfortable it is and the higher the chance that you’ll play like you can.

“You plan to be in the championship at this stage of the season. That’s what we’ve been planning for all year.”

The Mayo squad spent most of last weekend at a mini-training camp in Limerick where they were put through their paces by Horan, selectors Tom Prendergast and James Nallen, and the team’s coach Cian O’Neill.

This will be Mayo’s third All-Ireland quarter-final in four seasons (they lost to Meath in 2009 but beat Cork last year) and Horan knows the serious business starts now.

“You always want to be at your absolute peak when you get to Croker but that’s a high-risk strategy,” he said.

“Because you’ve got to peak a few times earlier in the year to make sure you get there in the first place.

“Of course, you’d prefer more games but we’ve had two matches, we’ve won them, and we’ve learnt plenty from them. They were very much a mixed bag in terms of performances but one thing we’ll be at the weekend is fresh and hungry. I feel we’ve got a bit of criticism because, according to the papers, we’ve only beaten Leitrim and Sligo but we’ve no control over who we play and we are just dying to get cracking in Croker.

“We’re just raring to go now.”

Tomorrow’s encounter will be the third time the former All-Star forward has come up against Down in his short managerial career.

His record so far reads one loss and one draw from their two league meetings in Castlebar and Horan admits he is an admirer of the Down style and system.

“The last time we played them, back in March, they gave us a bit of a going-over so we know what we’re up against,” he said.

“They get players back, they’ve got big guys like Dan Gordon, Ambrose Rogers and Benny Coulter in every line, and they’re a good, experienced, championship team.

“Both ourselves and Down are two skilful, pacy teams so I expect a game full of pace and with a high tempo.

“I’m really looking forward to it.”

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