James Horan unsure of his own future as Mayo are full of regrets
‘We just made too many mistakes, too many turnovers. It’s that straightforward’
Mayo’s Alan Dillon is boxed in by Dublin’s Jonny Cooper and Darren Daly in yesterday’s All- Ireland senior football final at Croke Park. Photograph: Eric Luke
Now is not the time for a tidy snippet of regret. No county can lose a seventh All-Ireland final, no matter how long it is since winning their last one, no matter how close they came to winning this one, and still be defiant in the face of defeat.
So they let it flow, Andy Moran drying away the tears, then finding himself having to hold them back all over again – James Horan sitting a little bemused as the questions of another lost cause are sprayed out in front of him like dirty graffiti.
“We had chances, at the end,” says Moran, the Mayo captain standing proud but a little unsteady in front of the team bus. “Cillian [O’Connor] had that free, the ref tells him that there’s 30 seconds left, and then he blows it from the kick-out.
“That’s a bit of a pain in the arse to be honest. But, hey, listen, these things happen.”
Moran is adamant that O’Connor and everyone else in and around the goalmouth in that 74th minute figured there would be at least one more run of play, rather than just another kick-out. “Cillian is a very intelligent guy and a very intelligent footballer. You know that yourselves. He asked the ref how long was left and he said 30 seconds. But then he blew it up.
“It’s a one out of ten chance anyway, but it’s a chance to get a goal and have a chance of winning an All-Ireland.”
Said or done
O’Connor certainly made his feelings known to match referee Joe McQuillan, when he did blow the final whistle once Stephen Cluxton completed his final kick-out, although Horan is reluctant to go there, conscious that nothing said or done now is going to change anything.
“When you ask the ref how long is left, when you ask him twice, he tells you there’s at least 30 seconds left after the score, that’s a little disappointing, “ says Horan.
“But, look, that’s neither here nor there. The game is over. We were beaten. It’s disappointing. Is there anything I can do about it? Not a friggin’ thing. It’s pointless.”
Horan knows too well that’s not the reason Mayo why lost this game, whatever about the reason for not winning with it. No team can expect to go the second half of All-Ireland final without scoring a single point from play – Moran’s goal on 48 minutes their only break when the otherwise placed-ball kicks of O’Connor.
“We’d enough ball to win the game,” says Horan. “We just made too many mistakes, too many turnovers. I think it’s that straightforward.
“We dominated the first 15 minutes but we didn’t get the score return we possibly should have.
“We had too many wides. It was closer at half-time than it should have been. In the second-half, when we were attacking, we just made some poor decisions at times and it eventually cost us.
“We won a lot of frees in the second-half, if you look at it that way. But we didn’t get the return from play that we should have. That game could have gone either way in the end. We just didn’t get there.”
It didn’t help that Alan Freeman had been nursing the flu all week, and lacked his usual energy, that Keith Higgins had to be brought back into his more defensive role, or that Séamus O’Shea was “only playing in spurts”, because Horan knows these aren’t the only reasons why Mayo lost, too.
What Horan does know is that this team, as hard it is, must somehow stay defiant in the face of defeat. He’s got another year of his current term with Mayo, although the decision to see that through is for another day.
“It’s tough, two All-Ireland finals in a row is tough. Some of the mistakes we made today were disappointing. That game was there for the taking for us but we just didn’t take the chances.
“We are making improvements. There’s no doubt about that. But we just didn’t get over the line today.
“But there’s serious calibre in those guys. They’re made of the right stuff so they’ll dust themselves down and go again, there’s no doubt about it.
“Myself, I haven’t a clue at this moment in time. We’ll go away and think about it.”
And Moran, not that was he was ever going to think any other way, holds back the tears and agrees wholeheartedly.
“To be honest, we’re devastated. There were tears in there, in that dressing room. But, you know, we’re in a situation now where the Andy Murray phrase comes out. He was very close to it for a long time but he got over the line in the end. We’re going to keep fighting and we definitely will be back.
“We’ve a very good team. The only problem is that Donegal were a very good team last year, and played a bit better on the day. Dublin are a very good team and played a bit better on the day too.
“Because for us, and I’ll say, our error count was too high, and theirs was probably that little bit lower than ours.
“And in a one point game, after 74 minutes of football, that’s what makes the difference.”