James Horan a cagier manager as he faces Dublin for a fourth time

James Horan a cagier manager as he faces Dublin for a fourth time

Mayo manager James Horan at Croke Park. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

James Horan has been known to throw a grenade during an All-Ireland final press conference but in this latest, his third in total, he is pulling no pin.

How about that Sunday Game debate about Dublin, James? 

“I don’t watch The Sunday Game, lads. Genuinely don’t watch it. I was travelling down through the fog so I didn’t. I’ve heard the reaction and seen the reaction. I know Pat Gilroy well through work. It brought a smile to my face anyway.”

But as he prepares Mayo to face Dublin for the fourth time as manager in the championship, is it a discussion that needs to be had? 

“Sure, the debate’s raging on. Dublin’s press conference, they answered a lot of questions on it. It’s not for us. I’ve more than enough to be worrying about for now.”

It’s a straight bat he’s playing this year and he’s learning to mind his p’s and q’s in the Covid world. He explains: “Even the warm-up and the start of the game, you can actually have a conversation or can hear what the players are saying to each other or have a conversation. And they can hear what we are talking about on the sideline too so yeah bizarre situation. My daughters were able to tell me what I was saying at the side of the pitch from the TV too.

“I remember I was saying something to the guy beside me about a player and the player stopped and looked over at us in the course of the game because he could hear what we were talking about but bizarre that way how it pans out.”

But Horan does accept he does take gambles. That was seen in semi-final against Tipperary where they believed they would beat their opponents in a shoot-out and left space at the back.

“I think the way we play we take calculated risks. We think it’s how we play best and our best chance of winning games and that’s what we’ll do. You see a lot of teams that don’t take risks and play it safe, I don’t know if they have a chance of winning with that mindset.

“We know what we’re about, where we’re strong and we’ll go after that. There’s no doubt about that. There’s a lot additionally that we’re trying to add to our game as well and bit by bit that’s coming together as well.”

Facing Dublin, Horan knows the margin for error is limited but doesn’t believe they warrant any grand tactical gesture. 

“We’ll be looking to do the stuff that we’re strong at for longer in the game. It’s as simple as that. Sometimes teams can try to do something that they haven’t done before and that can backfire on you.

“We have a very good idea of what we’re trying to do and how we’re trying to go about it, and we’d be very confident in the threat that can pose for whoever we play. We’re looking at getting better and better at that. That’s where our focus will be.”

Even after making some fine saves against Tipperary, there is a live debate about whether David Clarke can be retained in goal considering his kick-outs wouldn’t be as strong as Rob Hennelly’s.

Horan wasn’t expected to divulge his thinking on that — Clarke would be expected to fill the role again this Saturday — but he stressed kick-out malfunctions aren’t all on the kicker.

“The goalie is a hard place to play, there’s no doubt about it. He makes a mistake and it’s probably a goal but you could have an outfield player that makes seven or eight mistakes a game that could have let to a situation where there could have been a goal but they don’t get pinned with it as much.

“So it’s a tough position and it’s the same with kick-outs. There’s such a focus on it now. Our kick-outs (v Tipperary) in the first-half were strong, in the last quarter we weren’t as strong as we can be.

“Was that the kick-outs, was it our movement or a number of things? I think it’s all of the above sometimes. But we’re working hard on that and we’ll hopefully be a bit better the next time we go out as well.”

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