Donegal have led way in physicality, says Mayo manager
All-Ireland champions ‘really ratcheted that up last year’, says James Horan
Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea and Neil McGee of Donegal are involved in a heated exchange during last year’s All-Ireland football final. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Let’s get physical: Donegal’s Anthony Thompson and Cillian O’Connor of Mayo have words during last year’s All-Ireland football final. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Mark McHugh of Donegal is tackled by Mayo’s Lee Keegan during last year’s All-Ireland football final. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Call it mind games, call it player welfare concern, either way next Sunday’s rerun of last year’s All-Ireland final between Donegal and Mayo was yesterday taken to a higher plain of tension and rivalry by James Horan.
The Mayo manager added his tuppence worth following opposite number Jim McGuinness’ assertion that Donegal players are being unfairly targeted by opponents.
“Donegal have been the leaders in (physicality),” said Horan. “There’s no doubt about that. They’ve brought physicality in GAA to a new level, and fair play to them.
“They brought a new dimension to football last year, I think, in many ways, and particularly in the area of physicality.”
In the wake of Donegal’s victory over Laois on Saturday, McGuinness noted Mark McHugh’s concussion, following a hit by Monaghan’s Stephen Gollogly in the Ulster final, was the fourth in three championship games suffered by one of his players.
McHugh also suffered a burst eardrum and a 5cm tear to his leg in the collision.
“Four concussions in three games? I would imagine the Munster or Leinster rugby fellas wouldn’t have that level,” McGuinness said.
Horan added: “Look, Donegal and their backroom team, they’re competitive. They’re All-Ireland champions. Anything that’ll give them an advantage, they’ll try.
‘A different level’
“Last year they mastered many new skills and brought football to a different level on many fronts . . . particularly in the area around physicality.
“They really ratcheted that up last year and put a lot of teams to the sword based on their strength and their power and their tackling.
“I don’t know if any of ye have been at the end of a Michael Murphy tackle recently but there’s serious, serious physicality in that team. So they’ve been the leaders on that front.”
Horan talked about the work done by Mayo since the concession of two early goals against Donegal in last year’s All-Ireland final, particularly the avoidance of frees in the tackle area.
He also praised the work of referees’ chairman Pat McEnaney.
“This year since Donie Buckley’s been involved, we’ve looked at the whole area of skills, and to us, tackling is a skill area – there’s no doubt about it. So we’ve put a huge amount of time, effort and focus into getting all our basic skills right, including the tackle, and hopefully ye’ll see that on Sunday.
“Left hand, both hands, both feet, pick-ups, turning both ways, the fundamentals, we’ve put a lot of work into, and the tackle . . . we’ve looked at what the tackle is, and we’ve tried to perfect that as well as we can understand it.
“We’ve put huge work in there, so we’re comfortable we tackle to the letter of the law.