This time last year, Maurice Horan was up to his eyes ahead of Mayo’s All-Ireland SFC semi-final against Tipperary.
As head of their video and stats analysis team, he was working long and hard to make sure that he had all the bases covered for Stephen Rochford, Donie Buckley, and company.
Every minute was accounted for and, little did he know it, but Mayo had two more spins on the big rollercoaster still to come before their season ended.
As things transpired, that All-Ireland final replay defeat to Dublin would also be his last day as part of the Mayo set-up.
Fast-forward 12 months, and Horan’s life in Tralee is moving at a difference pace now as he juggles married life and two young children with a busy full-time job.
Those family and work commitments mean he’s stepped outside the Mayo football bubble, and the buzz of working with his home county has been replaced by a coaching role with Kerins O’Rahilly’s senior club team.
Working alongside joint managers Mike Quirke and Morgan Nix, and with Kerry seniors David Moran, Jack Savage, and Barry John Keane, has been invigorating.
Plus, with Mayo and Kerry facing off on Sunday, Horan has seen plenty of balls hopped in his direction in recent weeks.
But the former Mayo forward is well-placed to gauge the mood ahead of the eagerly-awaited All-Ireland semi-final.
“I’m enjoying the build-up down here,” admitted the Ballinrobe native. “Kerry lads are telling me that our county quarter-final won’t be on until October anyway — when Kerry are out of the championship!” he laughed.
“I think Kerry would be very wary of Mayo, they’d certainly be very respectful of them after what they did against Roscommon. There’s no doubt they’d be confident, but they would certainly respect them at the same time. There would be a feeling that Mayo have been gradually putting performances together and the quarter-final replay was the most complete one yet.
“But that means the element of surprise is gone too, there’s no catching Kerry on the hop now.”
Horan (42) stepped down as Limerick manager at the end of the 2013 season, but accepted an invitation to join Stephen Rochford’s Mayo backroom last year.
Although it was a huge commitment in terms of time, and meant commuting from Tralee to games all across the country, it was also an experience that Horan thoroughly enjoyed.
“Between work commitments and having a young family, I had to opt out at the end of last season,” he explained.
“The travel from Tralee was a factor too but it was a dream come true to work with Mayo last year, to be involved with a team at the very highest level of the GAA. To work with an elite group of players, and a backroom team with such a wide range of experiences was great.
"I found Stephen Rochford to be very good as well at pulling all the different strands of the group together and I enjoyed working with him. I think this year, like last year, is a testament to his ability to stay true to his beliefs and his convictions and negotitate a very tricky path through the All-Ireland Qualifiers. The team is building momentum again and they’ll come into the Kerry game confident.”
The Mayo players also made quite a big impression on Horan, who himself wore the Green and Red jersey in the All-Ireland under-21 final replay defeat to Kerry in 1995.
“What you see is what you get with this team. They’re very resourceful, very hard-nosed, and when a job has to be done, they go and do it.
"They’ve faced some massive challenges over the last few years, and they relish them. Other teams might go back into their shells but Mayo won’t. They feed off each other and the incredible support they get from Mayo people is a big reason for their success.”
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