Horan: ‘This was a grind’

Out of sorts for half-an-hour and still they saunter through.

And this in an All-Ireland semi-final.

Tyrone discommoded Mayo in a way no-one else has managed this summer but the net result has, if anything, only added to the aura surrounding a side that seems hell-bent on scrubbing 62 years of angst from a county’s psyche.

On the surface, then, it appears to be the ideal base to step into the September showpiece: a timely asterisk to all the talk of invincibility after the defeats of Galway, Roscommon, London and Donegal.

James Horan seemed to think so.

“Today was a grind, the hardest game we had, certainly in the first half. We were playing poor stuff but we kept going and battling and, as I said, they were six of the easiest shots we had and missed.

“Two 14-yard frees, lost our free taker, had the goal disallowed but it didn’t matter. We just kept playing and eventually we came through. I think today was good for us and we certainly took a lot from it.”

The chronology of events yesterday was in marked contrast to last year when they shocked Dublin and awed a country before holding out in the face of a furious comeback and the hope is that the final will swing in a similar fashion.

Whatever about that, Horan and his charges were unanimous in the belief this latest Mayo model is a marked improvement on that which fell to Donegal in the 2012 decider.

“I think we are in a better position every game we play,” said Horan. “The last couple of games we developed physically, technically and skill-wise and we go away after every game and look at what we can take lessons from.”

Andy Moran made much the same point by way of pointing to the performance of those called from the bench when it was put to him he must be savouring a final appearance after being marked absent through injury last year.

The captain spoke of how Michael Conroy and Enda Varley stuck their hands up with effective cameos and how squad members like Kevin Keane and Shane McHale will be looking to do likewise when they mark him in squad games this next month.

Aidan O’Shea’s take was remarkably similar.

“Look at the boys that came off the bench today. Cathal Carolan had an outrageous point with his right foot. Richie Feeney came on and won breaks, Mickey C ran the back line ragged so we have players from everywhere to come on, which is massive.

“Keith Higgins can play wing-forward, wing-back, corner-back so, yeah, we’re much stronger. I got a toasting in the A v B game last week from Barry [Moran] so there’s another player that can come in. That’s the level of competition in the squad.”

Mayo’s physical abilities are unquestioned, their talent too, and the manner in which they recovered from such a poor start here went some way to dispelling doubts as to their mental edge.

So too did O’Shea who has had to shoulder more of his county’s burgeoning hopes and dreams than most since his ridiculously impressive performance against Donegal in the quarter-final.

“There’s always pressure to perform,” said the 23-year-old. “Just a couple of simple of things like compete in the middle, link the play. Anything after that is a bonus. I’m just doing a job for the team.

“If people want to talk after the game that I played well great but it was only an All-Ireland quarter-final. I’ll look to go out and perform again the next day but there’s no added pressure really.”

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