Mayo manager James Horan has accused RTÉ of influencing officials ahead of the All-Ireland final with a “biased” build-up in favour of Donegal.
The former All Star hit out at the national broadcaster before travelling with the team for a holiday in Miami and vowed that his side’s potential would eventually prove Mayo’s doubters wrong.
“There was a lot of commentary from some media sources that was factually incorrect and, quite frankly, idiotic stuff,” he said.
“In a two-horse race, if you have the national broadcaster proclaiming about one team and one team only, that’s going to influence officials and various things around the game.
“There should be no place for that type of biased discussion. It was completely unwarranted and incorrect. We’ll eventually be proven right. Did it impact the game? It’s hard to say.”
Horan also believes the national media in general constantly talks down Mayo’s chances and cited the analysis ahead of their game against Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final.
“It didn’t particularly annoy me but of course we notice that,” he said in an interview with the Western People.
“Pretty much any big game we play is always about the other team in the media. If you were paranoid, you might think that the representation we get from the national media isn’t fair or reflective, but you’d waste your time if you went down that road.
“It’s pretty much all about how strong the opposition are and how are Mayo going to stop them rather than talking about what we can do, but as time passes, we’re changing minds and changing attitudes, I think.”
One thing he can’t change, though, is the result from the final. He dismissed the notion he got his match-ups wrong against Donegal and put the loss down to basic mistakes made by Mayo players.
“I’ve heard a lot of discussion about match-ups in the All-Ireland final, but in a way that misses the point. We had as much possession in that game as we had against Down in the quarter-final but used it poorly at times.
“We had a lot of possession in the first 10 minutes. A lot of ball went into the full-forward line in the opening minutes that we didn’t hold. If we had held that ball, we’d be having a different conversation. There’s a range of things apart from the match-ups that, to me, are more important.
“I hear a lot about Michael Murphy winning that early ball but if you go back and ask why was that ball kicked in, why did Karl Lacey get the space to deliver such a fine pass? We had Barry [Moran], Aidan [O’Shea], Alan [Dillon], Jason [Doherty] out there and go back further than that — where did Donegal win the ball?
“Scores don’t just come from the things that stick in people’s minds, there much more to it than that. We always go back and look at why and where such things happened and that’s the way we improve,” he continued.
“Before Lacey kicked the ball in, there were guys who could have got tackles in and could have stopped it in the half-back line. There are always moments like that where we can improve, and we will.
“Michael Murphy got a great goal and fair play to him, but we were in a lot more control of the game than that early scoreline indicated and we didn’t do our stuff. We made mistakes and gave Donegal the opportunities. That’s where I focus my attention rather than just on obvious match-ups. The reasons behind the construction of the attack were much more important.”
The experience of competing in the final, a game he believes Mayo should have won, will stand to his team though, and the biggest problem he has had since the game is resting players ahead of the season.
“We had to cool guys down in the weeks after the All-Ireland final because they wanted to get back to it again. They couldn’t wait to start again, but we had to say ‘hold on there’. It needed to be done in a controlled, scientific way, and that’s what we have done.
“People are very keen and there’s a great team spirit, a great sense of unity among the players. We’ve already some strong additions to the group and we’re not finished yet, so fellas just can’t wait to get back on the field again.
“We eradicated the seven-point deficit fairly quickly and 10 minutes into the second half we had opportunities we didn’t take. It was the mistakes we made that ultimately cost us.
“The exciting thing is that we didn’t play like we can, yet should have won the All-Ireland and that gives us huge scope in which to develop. That’s what we’re looking forward to and that’s what we’re working so hard on already to bring out in 2013.
“We had lost the All-Ireland final, but within 10 minutes I knew people would use the experience in the right way. From talking to the players, I knew that an even greater level of determination was building as we spoke.
“We were all disappointed and emotional and it was hard, but we sat down and analysed the game and said ‘This is why we lost and this is what we must do to improve in those areas’. It was very practical and logical and everyone realised that a few little things cost us. So we went through that process before we left the dressing room and even later that night in the hotel there was a sense of ‘onwards and upwards’.
“We’re back in action next weekend and we can’t wait to get started. We did okay in 2012, but compared to what this team is capable of, we didn’t perform to 60% of our true potential.
“We got to two national finals last year, but didn’t come anywhere what we are capable of. So the challenge for us now is to play to our potential. The team has huge skill levels and we’re looking all the time to improve and drive on. We’re working hard and we know that when we get things right, great things are possible.”
Mayo boss reveals huge sacrifices of coaching role
Life as an inter-county manager requires huge sacrifices according to Mayo’s James Horan.
Having led his county to the All-Ireland final against Donegal last year in just his second season with the team, he admitted the limited time he can devote to his wife and four children shows why so few managers stay in the job for long.
“I’m enjoying it, but it’s very, very tough and extremely time-consuming,” he said.
“Today, I’ve competed a day’s work, got home and had dinner with the family before having six meetings between half seven and this interview at 11pm. Maybe that’s why the life of a top-five inter-county manager is a short one because it’s so high octane; but don’t get me wrong, it’s extremely enjoyable.
“You just have to try and make up for it in different ways.
“I try to minimise the time I’m away from home and try spend as much time as I can with Siobhán and the girls. Undoubtedly, some things do suffer because of the time required to do this job.”
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