Cillian O’Connor out for the season but it’s ‘not a disaster’ for Mayo, says James Horan

The Mayo manager added that O’Connor’s absence for this summer’s Championship will not change the “key principles” of Mayo’s forward play
Cillian O’Connor out for the season but it’s ‘not a disaster’ for Mayo, says James Horan

ARMCHAIR FAN: James Horan pictured as EirGrid announced a five-year partnership extension for the GAA official timing sponsorship. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Mayo manager James Horan has confirmed Cillian O’Connor will miss the remainder of the inter-county season, but rejected the assertion that his loss is a “disaster” for the county’s Championship aspirations.

Horan was coy on the severity of O’Connor’s achilles tendon injury and the approximate period of time he will be sidelined for beyond the Championship, save for his comment that the 29-year-old has “quite a bit of rehab” in front of him following last week’s procedure and won’t be back on the pitch “for the foreseeable future”.

The evidence presented to Horan at training during the week and a half since O’Connor’s injury has left him “confident” that others will step up to fill the sizable void left by the leading scorer in Championship history.

The Mayo manager added that O’Connor’s absence for this summer’s Championship will not change the “key principles” of Mayo’s forward play. “It’s disappointing for Cillian, but it’s by no means a disaster [for the team],” said Horan.

“At the higher level, the level we’re trying to play at, it’s an opportunity for someone who has been knocking on the door to go in there now. What a great role model they had in the way Cillian plays. They can learn from that. I’d be confident in what we’ve seen at training. We have a number of guys pushing incredibly hard. From every crisis comes opportunity.

“We’re lucky, in one way, that we have a lot of players playing very well in training and we have a lot of young players coming through, so one of those are going to have to step up. We’re looking forward to getting going and seeing how it goes.”

Horan said management had not yet settled on who will take over from the injured forward in the free-taking department. O’Connor converted 28 dead-ball efforts when racking up 5-40 during last year’s All-Ireland championship. Paul Towey, Ryan O’Donoghue, Conor Loftus, Jason Doherty, and Darren Coen were all mentioned as potential dead-ball replacements. “We’ll see how team selection plays out and take it from there.”

Mayo begin their quest for a first Sam Maguire since 1951 away to Sligo in Saturday’s Connacht quarter-final, with Horan remarking that the younger of the O’Connor brothers, Diarmuid, is in a race to be fit for the opening game of their provincial title defence. Along with Cillian, the twice winner of the young footballer of the year award was another who was forced out of the Clare League semi-final win because of injury.

“Diarmuid is very close. Jason Doherty is pushing very hard, as well. Brendan Harrison, again pushing very hard, has a couple of games with his club under his belt.”

Reflecting on their swift return to the League’s top-tier, Horan said they “learnt an awful lot” about themselves and “got a huge amount” from their successful Division 2 campaign. “We’re very happy with how things are progressing. We’re a little rough around the edges on some things but definitely trying to get better on those.

“I can’t emphasise how much knowledge sharing there was with the senior guys to the younger guys last year and how welcoming they were with the younger guys which definitely gave the younger guys confidence and belief and definitely accelerated their development.”

Away from matters green and red, the two-term Mayo boss said the GAA has “gone overboard” on the number of playing rule changes introduced over the past few years. Horan wants recent rule changes reviewed by Croke Park post-Championship.

“Some of them have been reactionary. Some of them haven’t worked, the advanced mark. You’d hate for games to be decided on some of those rule changes.

“I don’t know where or who or how they’re generated, or the science behind some of them. Or what’s the intended benefits of some of them?

“Gaelic football is in the healthiest shape it’s possibly ever been in, with the highest standard of football, so I’m not sure we need to mess with some of the rules that we are.

“Four or five years ago, there was a bandwagon around Gaelic football of changes and ‘it was this’ and ‘it was that’. It took hold a little bit, maybe, with the powers that be. I was never convinced that it was (broken). If you look at the game that is being played now, some of the rules that were introduced are of no benefit to the game.”

Turning to the future existence of provincial championships at summertime, Horan has no issue with the provincial system remaining tied to the All-Ireland series. He does accept, though, that his view is a “selfish” one rooted in the competitiveness that Mayo are exposed to in Connacht and how this is “great preparation” for the later stages of the Sam Maguire race.

“You look up to Ulster and the amount of good teams there, how Armagh are progressing this year and what’s happening in Derry, Donegal, Tyrone. It’s a serious championship up there. From my point of view, where I’m at, I think it’s a good system. There may be a better system out there, but, I’d be happy enough with where it is.”

Horan feels the current limits on the number of spectators attending games is overcautious. “It’s quickly getting there that we could certainly have more people at games, even now.”

More in this section

Puzzles logo

Puzzles hub

Sport Push Notifications

By clicking on 'Sign Up' you will be the first to know about our latest and best sporting content on this browser.

Sign Up

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
Puzzles logo

Puzzles hub

Cookie Policy Privacy Policy FAQ Help Contact Us Terms and Conditions

© Irish Examiner Ltd