Lee Keegan has revealed that James Horan is a little more hands-on, a little more knowledgeable, and a little more “scary2 in his second stint as Mayo manager.
Ultimately, the former Footballer of the Year believes that the Horan who is in charge now is an improved version of the one who guided Mayo between September 2010 and August 2014.
Keegan is a close ally of Horan’s, having also played for him at club level with Westport before the ex-Sky Sports pundit returned to the county position last October.
Asked what's different about Allianz League-winning manag er Horan this time around, Keegan gave an intriguing initial response.
“He's definitely more scary,” said the experienced half-back.
He’s probably more of a coach now than he was then. He’s more involved with the training side of things.
"He has more of an input with the session. I had him for club last year, so that was scary as well.
But the big thing with James is, he’s bringing the approach with him where he doesn’t care what you’ve done before as a player, and that’s keeping a lot of us on our toes and keeping us fresh.
“If you have one bad game, you could be on the bench the next day. I think that’s the biggest difference between James now and in 2014.”
Horan showed his ruthless streak shortly after his second coming by convening trials for the 2019 panel. Even Andy Moran, the panel’s longest serving player, had to attend.
Keegan suggested that some players may have slipped into a ‘comfort zone’, and backed the idea of trials for everyone — though he admitted that the older players were a little surprised to receive the text informing them.
“I think we had six games going on at one stage, it just shows the amount of people that want to get involved and that James did the right thing by doing it, he brought some good players in,” said Keegan, who outlined the level of competition in the panel.
“As a player, sometimes you nearly know if you’re going to be playing. You might get into a comfort zone. That shows in how you perform sometimes in big games as well. Now at training, everything is mixed up.
“We play some big games within training and the teams are very much... you play a red versus green game, and it’s not a thing anymore where it’s an A v B game. I shouldn’t say scary, but it’s definitely brought a real challenge aspect to training.”
Keeg an said that Horan treats the players as adults and doesn’t enforce behaviour charters or alcohol bans.
“There's no drink ban you’re not signing contracts to say you’re not going to (drink),” said Keegan. “I think it’s just crazy, getting people to sign contracts,” he added.
“We’re adults, if you treat us like adults we will act like adults and if you start putting bans on lads that’s where you start losing respect and you won’t get the best from lads.”