Photo: Irish Times
So, the deal’s been sealed, James is back in the hot seat. I think we all expected this to happen some day, although even a few short months ago few surely could have thought his return would occur as soon as it has or, indeed, in the way that it happened. As the saying goes, though, life is full of surprises.
It’s difficult to frame any thoughts about James’ return to the manager’s position without making some reference first to the man who occupied the post before him and the manner in which that seat was vacated. There’s no need to plough up old ground all over again but it is worth noting all the same that the vacancy at the top only arose due to a rather outsized cock-up that occurred in what should have been a straightforward ratification of changes to Stephen Rochford’s backroom team.
But we are where we are. When Stephen resigned I really did fear for what the future might hold for us. But, like so many others, I can’t help but go slightly wobbly at the knees when recalling the best days we enjoyed during James Horan’s first tenure. Clocking Cork in 2011. That heart-in-mouth win over Dublin in 2012. The evisceration of Galway the following year, followed by the defenestration of Donegal later that summer. The brave and brilliant second half fightback in the drawn game against Kerry in 2014.
At the risk of going all Boris Johnson at this juncture, however, I think it’s time for a Greek philosophy quote. From the lad Heraclitus, no less, who stated:
No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.
In welcoming back James Horan into the manager’s position, then, we need to bear in mind time’s passage and the impossibility of retracing the same steps in the same way. There will not be a seamless transition from 2014 to 2019, nor could there ever be. In no sense can this appointment be seen as the old gang getting back together again.
That point is underlined too by the four-year term James has been handed. In that significant chunk of time we can expect to see major changes in playing personnel – some sooner rather than later – and changes too in how we function at a coaching and organisational level. The set-up James bequeathed in 2014 was light years advanced from the ramshackle one he replaced in late 2010. By the time we get to 2022 things will have moved on apace once more.
But will we win Sam? I’ve no idea, to be honest, but what I think we can be sure of is that no effort will be spared to give us the best shot of doing so. James’ stated aim in his first term was to make us consistently competitive and you can be sure that this will remain as a core objective for him second time around too.
October has just begun, with close on four months still to go before next year’s League campaign gets underway. Hopefully, the media circus that too often has the name of Mayo GAA emblazoned on its big top will now move off and leave us in peace over the next while.
There’s no doubting, though, that supporters will be looking forward to 2019 with a renewed sense of optimism. After James was first appointed to the job I said here on the blog that, with the new man in charge, we could “all be in for one hell of a ride.” Time to buckle in again, people, the Horan express is ready to hit the road once more.