James Horan hits out at Mayo county board

Former manager feels they didn’t back team in week between the drawn semi-final and replay

In James Horan's first interview since stepping down as Mayo manager, he has hit out at the Mayo county board for not backing his team in the week between the drawn All Ireland semi-final against Kerry and its replay.

Horan, whose four-year stint as Mayo manager ended with that extra-time defeat in Limerick, has told the Western People newspaper that whatever about his feelings on playing the game in the Gaelic Grounds, the fact that the county board didn't stand up for them annoyed him the most.

“I couldn’t believe it at first. Croke Park is the place where everyone wants to play – it’s the place where the big games should be played and suddenly we were packed off to Limerick.

“Kerry had played there regularly and were well used to the place and we, rightly, questioned why it hadn’t been scheduled for Thurles or another venue if it had to be taken out of Croke Park.


“But the most unbelievable part of the whole matter was the fact that our own county board didn’t come out and say something when the President of the GAA told Mayo to stop complaining and concentrate on the game if they knew what was good for them.

“I can’t understand how they didn’t stand up for the team at that stage. They should have, but there was no comment whatsoever and that was very disappointing.”

Throughout his time in charge, Horan’s relationship with the county board was often strained. Some of it was the natural tension between administrator and coach, some of it went beyond that.

“Resources are a number of different things and I mentioned that at the end of the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Having proper resources isn’t just about money – it’s about set-up, it’s about having people working together and it’s about having the right people that you need.

“Of course money is a big part of it but mainly people need to work together for the betterment of Mayo football and it’s fairly clear that this didn’t always happen.

“Is it possible that the county board and the structures could be better aligned to give the team a better chance of success? The answer to that would be yes. That’s something that needs to be looked at. We don’t have the resources of other teams and there were many debates to ensure that the team had everything that they needed.”

Horan also used the interview to take a swipe at local commentary in the county, which he felt was unhelpful to Mayo's cause the further his time in charge went on. He was particularly scathing about the perception that took hold after Mayo's exit that they had gone into the replay without a plan to combat Kieran Donaghy.

“I think there’s a massive difference between national and local media. Overall the national media are balanced, fair and consistent, but I think the local media, particularly in 2014, have been determined to tear things down.

“Sometimes I felt that there were people who would rather see us fail than succeed and I can’t for the life of me figure out why that is, but you just have to deal with it, refocus and get on with it.

"[ON DONAGHY] We had been on the road for four years at that stage and it's laughable to suggest that we had no plan to deal with a situation, but those kind of comments don't bother me. I've heard suggestions that we should have put the two O'Sheas or David Clarke on him with Barry (Moran) in goal and Jason Gibbons sweeping in front of him. Mad stuff.

“Look, forget all this talk. We had numerous plans to deal with all situations and Ger Cafferkey is a superb full-back, end of story. The supply of ball into their full-forward line was the problem. However it’s time to let that go and move on.”

Overall, Horan declared himself reasonably happy that during his time in charge of Mayo, the county’s mindset got an overhaul and that the ground was laid for future achievements.

“Success is measured in a number of different ways. At my first press-conference in 2010 I said we’d be consistently competitive and we’d always look to improve every single time we played, I also said we’d take the bullshit out of Mayo football and I think we’ve been very successful on all fronts. We obviously didn’t win the All-Ireland but it’s only a matter of time based on where things are now.

“If you think back about Mayo football for many reasons we were seen as guys with white boots and bleached hair – all flash and no substance, whether that was true or not. What we see now are guys with huge honesty and integrity and no little skill. It was crucial that we changed that in the psyche and I think we did that.”

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times