Horan gears up for major tilt at league

Mayo boss James Horan has set his sights on winning the National League in 2014 as he believes that it would be the perfect preparation for an assault on the All-Ireland title.

Speaking for the first time since September’s All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin last week, Horan lamented the fact that, despite reaching the NFL final in 2011 and semi-final last spring, he felt Mayo’s league form hasn’t been ‘more consistent’ over the last two years. He also said that ‘winning tough games on the road’ is the ideal way to build character and confidence ahead of next summer’s championship.

“One of the things we set out to be is a consistently top team, and consistency is one thing that Mayo hasn’t had in a long time. We’re improving that,” he noted.

“Having said that, our league form over the last two years hasn’t been consistent enough. We haven’t won enough games in the league, we haven’t ground out some of the hard games that we could have ground out.

“That’s something we’ll be looking to address in next year’s league campaign.

“The best preparation for the All- Ireland championship would be a national title victory. I don’t think there’s anything better you could do in training that would help the team like that would.

“I don’t know if it’s like it used to be, where if you went flat out for the league that you’d be flat for the championship.

A number of new faces are also set to be introduced into the Mayo playing pool next season, including Kiltane’s Mikie Sweeney, and Horan is adamant these players will be given game time if they perform in training.

“It’s like everything, there needs to be change, there needs to be a freshening up.

“If there’s an existing guy in the panel, and he’s doing okay, and there’s a new guy who’s doing well for his club, and if it’s close, the new guy will get the nod. That’s the way it will be. If we play a challenge game, and a new guy comes in and plays as well as a guy with three or four years’ experience, then the new guy will get the close call because the guy with the experience should be doing more. That’ll challenge a few people.”

Meanwhile, Horan still hasn’t decided if he will be adding to his backroom team for next season after the departure of selector James Nallen, but one man who definitely won’t be considered for the role is former Donegal coach Rory Gallagher. There had been some speculation locally that Gallagher was one of those being considered by the Mayo manager to fill the vacant role. However, Horan has ruled that out.

“There’s absolutely no chance. Zero! I don’t know if you can get less than zero. I can confirm that.”

The Mayo camp are known to have been annoyed by comments made by Gallagher ahead of this year’s All-Ireland SFC quarter-final between Donegal and Mayo. The former Fermanagh forward claimed Mayo had advised Monaghan on how to beat Donegal during a challenge game the week before the Ulster final.

Gallagher also claimed Horan worked with the team’s sports psychologist, Kieran Shannon, to prepare what he said in media interviews. “I think Horan works to a pre-meditated script and I think Kieran Shannon is behind a good bit of it. I know Shannon fairly well after . He was involved with Fermanagh when Malachy O’Rourke was there. I think Shannon is behind Horan’s statements.”

* Pat Flanagan was last night appointed as the new Sligo manager.

He succeeds Kevin Walsh 149 days after the former Galway midfielder stepped down.

Offaly man Flanagan brought Westmeath to Division 1 last year but was

replaced by Paul Bealin after a disappointing Championship campaign.

* Ballinderry’s Kevin McGuckin has been cleared to play in Sunday’s Ulster club final after the veteran Oak Leaf defender had his straight red card against Kilcoo in the semi-final rescinded.


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