Relaxed Horan now refocused for final

Sometimes we need to be reminded there is life beyond the training field, the dressing room and match day for those who have signed up to the inter­county circuit.

Take Mayo football manager James Horan who has been busy dealing with real world issues recently, so much so that he didn’t get to see Sunday’s Connacht final opponents, Galway, in the flesh in their recent provincial semi­final.

It turns out that Horan was bringing his wife Siobhán, and their newborn son Eoghan home from hospital in Castlebar that particular Saturday evening last month.

As a result, the last few weeks have been a mixture of night feeds and new routines for the 41-year­old father of five. Factor in his day job as a Process Quality Assurance Manager with Coca-Cola in Ballina, not to mention his 24-7 type commitments with Mayo, and you begin to wonder how he juggles it all. On the face of it, however, he’s taking it all in his stride, and he was as relaxed as he was candid when he sat down to preview Sunday’s game.

“I didn’t get to see Galway in the flesh because I was coming out of hospital, it was a busy day,” he smiled. “But we had a number of people at the game. If you go down to Sligo and win by five points any year, at any stage of the Championship, it’s good, so I’m sure that Galway took a lot from that.

“After the big score they put up against London, and the very solid show they put in at Markievicz Park, they will be confident and happy with where they are. They are a good, solid team and I’m sure that they’re looking forward to coming down here.”

And Mayo are looking forward to their visit too: that much was clear from Horan’s demeanour and comments. The defending champions spent a training weekend in Achill in the west of the county recently, talking tactics, honing their game plan, and bonding, through activities like a swim in the Atlantic Ocean.

They are on the verge of winning four successive Connacht senior titles for the first time in 63 years, and hoping that the experience gained over recent seasons will stand them in good stead on Sunday.

“The mood in the camp is very good,” said Horan. “I think fellas are just ready to play football now. We spluttered a little throughout the league and we haven’t put in a performance like we can. That is what people are looking forward to now.

“We have won games this year and we have only played for 15 or 20 minutes,” he added. “We haven’t kept it going so we are really looking for 70 minutes of top stuff and see where that take us.”

And the last time the manager felt his team delivered a 70­minute performance? “Probably last year against Donegal,” he replied after a quick think.

“And against Galway [last May] was the last time that we played as well as we can. In the All­Ireland final we played well for 30 minutes but did not keep our levels up.”

The mediocre nature of Mayo’s display last time out against Roscommon has also got the natives a little restless. Not surprisingly, James Horan saw the semi­final a little differently.

“From our point of view, we played honest, we kept going and eventually we got there. So from my point of view, we win, we get out of there and we look forward to a Connacht final.”

Win, lose or draw, of course, the real world will be waiting for all concerned on Monday morning.


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