All Stars: James Horan reflects on low-key life after Mayo
Former manager believes demands on intercounty coaches have become intolerable
Aidan O’Shea, 2013 All Stars, in action against Ciaran McDevitt playing for the 2014 All Stars in Boston. Photograph: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
Saturday on an Arctic afternoon in Canton’s Irish Cultural Centre, and the football All Stars of this year and last put on an exhibition match that pleasantly entertains the crowd of just under 1,000.
For the record, the 2013 team, managed by Dublin’s Jim Gavin, defeats their 2014 successors by a typically All Stars scoreline of 10-7 to 5-5.
Marking his last “high-profile” day on the sideline, in charge of the 2014 side, is James Horan, who stepped down as Mayo manager after a fourth season had concluded with defeat by Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final replay in Limerick.
The exhibition match is a curious sign-off, its mega-scoring high jinks the antithesis of the intensity that Horan sought – and largely managed – to instil in Mayo during a period which saw the county lose two All-Ireland finals and two semi-finals, one after a replay.
Months on from his departure and with his successors appointed – not without the familiar blend of melodrama and farce – Horan reflects on the sudden abundance of personal time.
His views on the four years with Mayo are stoical but he is in no doubt that the demands on inter-county managers have become intolerable.
“I don’t think it’s sustainable at the moment, no, I genuinely don’t think it is. Your circumstances need to adapt because if you want to manage to the best of your ability, everything else needs to row in behind it.
“If you’re only looking for one or two per cent improvement – if you think about it, you’re coaching or managing at a certain level but you’re working as well, so if you could get rid of your job you’d be able to commit even more or maybe be a better coach than what you are, so it’s always going to be pushed to give more and more time.”
Horan believes that the challenges facing inter-county managers are so steep at this stage that the positions could be filled on a full-time basis.
“I don’t know will that ever be the case but it’s a very valid idea. If you think of some of the set-ups at the moment, if you take a management set-up at inter-county level, in some of the top teams you have 12 or 14 involved and, say, some of the medical [personnel] on that team will be paid to do the role – and rightfully so; they’re trained professionals.
“But in a lot of cases you have a manager that’s managing that whole group that’s putting in crazy stuff and is not getting paid. And that’s the case in a lot of counties. That’s not sustainable. I don’t think it is.”
“In my time involved I’ve never seen one of these contracts – has Eugene got a cheque or something that a manager was given? It’s an awful sweeping statement to make because in my experience it’s not the case. A lot of managers I’ve been involved with, it’s not the case.”