WEEKS of speculation were brought to an end last night when James Horan was appointed new Mayo senior football team manager.
Horan (38) was recommended for the position by the five-man selection committee and ratified by delegates at a county board meeting at McHale Park, Castlebar last night.
He will be assisted by Martin Connolly (a former Mayo footballer and current joint-manager of Westport), Paul Jordan (ex-manager of Castlebar Mitchels) and former Mayo great James Nallen.
“I’ll give it everything I have,” Horan told the delegates after making the short journey from his home in Castlebar to McHale Park following a telephone call from Mayo board chairman James Waldron to tell him he had got the job.
“I’m really looking forward to the challenge. I’m honoured that people have placed so much trust in me to be the next Mayo manager. I can’t wait to get started.
“Mayo is full of good footballers and I think our management set-up can bring something. I think we can set an environment where players, if they want, if they have the right attitude, and the right character, can flourish. That’s what we’re about.
“We want to bring some sense and some structure and, I know it’s an overused phrase, but we want to restore a bit of pride into the whole thing.”
Horan won three Connacht senior championships and two All Star awards during a distinguished playing career with Mayo.
He is the current manager of the Ballintubber senior club team that qualified for their first ever Mayo SFC final last weekend.
Mayo minor manager Tony Duffy, who worked alongside the new Mayo boss as joint-manager of Ballintubber in 2007, is well-placed to assess his former team-mate.
“James is very hands-on, very well-organised and very committed. When he takes on a job, he goes for it 100%. I found him to be a very good communicator and he’s got a great presence in the dressing-room.
“He doesn’t lack confidence either. He’s got an awful lot of belief in his own ability too, whether it be in work, football, golf, everything really,” said Duffy.
“James has a very positive approach and everything is based around hard work. That is the basis for everything he does. When you have the ball, everybody is an attacker. When you don’t have the ball, everybody is a defender.”
Former Mayo midfielder Pat Fallon, who played with Horan during the late 90s, was also fulsome in his praise of the new manager.
“James was an extremely talented footballer,” he remarked. “He was very skilful and very strong. He could do the unexpected, the unorthodox.
“And the bigger the occasion, the better he was. That was proven by his performances at Croke Park and his two All Stars. Any time James got really focussed, he delivered.”
Horan’s appointment brings to an end a saga that began last June when John O’Mahony stepped down as manager after Mayo were knocked out of the All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers by Longford at Pearse Park.
Next year’s championship will mark the 50th anniversary of Mayo’s last All-Ireland senior title win. They are currently available at odds of 25/1 to regain the Sam Maguire Cup next September.
Horan will begin his competitive reign as Mayo manager on home soil in the opening round of the 2011 National Football League against beaten All-Ireland finalists Down on Sunday, February 6.
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