It’s a talent in itself that James Horan can come across as offended even in triumph.
After beating Armagh, he bristled at suggestions in the local Mayo media that training the weeks of games was too intense and leading to injury.
On the occasion of this latest victory, a query about finishing three points ahead of Galway when they had been eight up on a few occasions, was met with similar derision.
“We only won by three so I’m more than happy with that,” he said, tongue-in-cheek. “The (Shane Walsh) goal from the free was crazy so that would make it six points.”
With Kerry now on their radar, Horan felt he had a further claim for insult when remarks made by former Kerry manager Éamonn Fitzmaurice and Armagh’s Kieran McGeeney about the number of head injuries sustained by Mayo was put to him. Fitzmaurice in this newspaper wrote last month of Mayo’s “cynical exploitation” of the rule when they’re ahead in games — the referee must stop play for such incidents. In highlighting how so little additional time was played in Castlebar nine days ago, McGeeney questioned the “10 or 11 head injuries” Mayo had.
“I’ve no idea what he’s (McGeeney) talking about. You saw that game out there. You tell me what you thought from a cynical point of view or who was doing what. We finished with all our players (Galway ended the game with 12). We just try to build a game as hard and as fair as we can so commentary on a game when you lose is kind of tough.”
Horan was also asked if his claim after beating Kerry by four points in the Division 1 final that Mayo could have won by “10 or 12” will be mentioned in their next opponents’ dressing room.
Fitzmaurice too had highlighted the comment as a “clunky and careless comment at best” but the Mayo manager played it down.
“I’m sure Kerry really don’t care what I say, to be honest. I just thought that on the day we created a lot of goal chances that we didn’t take. We took our first two but missed our next three. That was my initial reaction. I try and be as straight as I can. I don’t think Kerry will give two hoots about what I say.”
Watching on from the Mackey Stand amid the 19,183 crowd, Peter Keane and Tommy Griffin will have been more taken with how comfortable Mayo looked for so long in this game only to be reeled back to three points by the 61st minute.
Mayo might have had been in more of a pickle had David Clarke not stopped Liam Silke’s 54th-minute penalty after Chris Barrett impeded Ian Burke.
From the get-go, Mayo were ahead and dominant, both of James Carr’s goals inside the opening 10 minutes coming courtesy of Galway’s indecisiveness.
The second, to be fair to Carr, was a beautifully-taken goal but Silke was made to look ordinary by his solo just like his Corofin team-mate Bernard Power was when he deflected a Darren Coen shot attempt into Carr’s path for the opening goal.
Although Galway went behind by eight points for the first time in the 25th minute, Peter Cooke’s long-range shooting was strong and they trailed 2-7 to 0-7 at the break.
Mayo, by keeping a three-man full-forward line, were able to kick into them across the field and the ball was sticking too much for Kevin Walsh’s liking, Eoghan Kerin being hauled off before half-time.
By introducing Damien Comer, Walsh hoped to sharpen the point of his attack but the difference remained six points up to Clarke saving from Silke. However, the next three points were all Galway’s and when Kieran Molloy popped over the third of them the initiative looked to have shifted.
Mayo, though, composed themselves with the third of Darren Coen’s points and Cillian O’Connor’s outside-of-the-boot free from distance in the 64th minute gave them further cause for relief.
The insurance score came when Aidan O’Shea cleverly tipped a Galway kickout to set in train an attack, which finished with Donie Vaughan volleying a point over the bar.
Walsh’s goal from a close-range free deep into additional time came too late, particularly as Galway had lost two players, Ian Burke to a red card and John Daly to a black card, and were to lose Michael Daly to another black card with time all but up.
Horan paid tribute to Carr for his goals but reserved most of his praise for his stalwarts.
I’m nearly more happy for some of the senior lads in our full-back line - Chris Barrett, Brendan Harrison, Keith (Higgins), Colm Boyle in particular showed immense leadership today.
Mayo have played thrice as much as Kerry these past few weeks but man of the match Darren Coen doesn’t believe his team have an advantage over the Munster champions in that regard.
“They were planning for the Super 8s. They are going to be peaking at the right time. It’s up to us to match their workrate and intensity. If we do that we’ll be in with a chance.”
Scorers for Mayo:
C. O’Connor (0-6, 5 frees); J. Carr (2-0); D. Coen (0-3); K. McLoughlin, C. Coen, J. Doherty, D. Vaughan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Galway:
S. Walsh (1-3, 1-2 frees, 1 45); P. Cooke (0-4);
E. Brannigan (0-2); G. O’Donnell, C. McDaid, M. Daly, K. Molloy (0-1 each).
D. Clarke; C. Barrett, B. Harrison; C. Boyle; K. Higgins, P. Durcan (c), S. Coen; A. O’Shea, D. Vaughan; F. McDonagh, K.
McLoughlin, J. Doherty; J. Carr, D. Coen, C. O’Connor.
Subs for Mayo:
C. Treacy for K. McLoughlin (50); E. Regan for J. Carr (55); L. Keegan for F. McDonagh (63); M. Plunkett for J. Doherty (69); E. O’Donoghue for P. Durcan (inj 70+4)..
B. Power; E. Kerin, D. Kyne, L. Silke; J. Daly; G. O’Donnell (c), C. McDaid, S. Kelly; P. Cooke, M. Daly; J. Heaney, S. Walsh, E. Brannigan; M. Farragher, I. Burke.
Subs for Galway:
S.A. Ó Ceallaigh for E. Kerin (28); D. Comer for S. Kelly (h-t); A. Ó Laoí for M. Farragher (43); T. Flynn for C. McDaid (56); K. Molloy for J. Heaney (60); A. Varley for E. Brannigan (66).
I. Burke (yellow/black, 70+1).
J. Daly (black card, not replaced 70+6), M. Daly (black card, not replaced 70+8).
J. McQuillan (Cavan).