Back on board the Horan express

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.

22 thoughts on “Back on board the Horan express

  1. If ever a man could raise a county’s hopes and beliefs its Horan! I was very emotional when he stepped down after the kerry defeat, I think the whole county was. Thinking back when I walked out of Pearse Park in Longford in 2010, I couldn’t see where a connacht title would be challenged for by our Mayo team, fast forward a few months under James, we’d won a battle in the Hyde, and that Cork game, I’ll never forget that feeling after Kevin Macs goal, and after when we won! That was the belief that the Monsignor gave us, never back down and be proud of our boys and our County! The love in that this team has enjoyed and will continue to enjoy is again, all down to James! He gave us back our belief, and now he’s has given it back to us again! Whatever the future holds for our gallant hero’s, we will back them to a hilt!

    Is it January yet………….

  2. The boy Hercules was all in it he knew his stuff but sometime you can’t beat the old dog for the hard road and I reckon James has grown and learned in the last 4 years too and improved himself. I am looking forward to the next few years and looking forward to the rebuilding process. I am delighted he’s holding trials throughout the county I think everybody will get a fair crack of the whip and if they’re good enough I’m sure he will include them that’s all we can ask for and everything else will take care of itself. Best of luck to James and his backroom team.

  3. Good luck jamesey
    Great have ya back .
    Great vision looking ahead and one or two kicks in this team yet…
    Up mayo

  4. Don’t get me wrong, I think the world of JH and am delighted to have him back, leaving aside the awful shafting of Rochy.

    However, I’m slightly cool on this Mayo nativism that seems to have emerged all of a sudden. It’s as if the work Donie Buckley did over the last 5 years or so (and Tony McEntee latterly), counted for nothing – see Mike Connelly’s comments for example. One of the advantages I see in such people, apart from the massive coaching input of Buckley, is the detachment they bring and the refusal to be overwhelmed by the local heroes. I think McEntee certainly brought that, though to my mind it took time. Remember we’ve been operating at the highest levels over the last 5 years – with our fingers clutching at the base of Sam Maguire, if not actually reaching the handles. Guys who’ve been there and done that, should not be excluded if the feeling is they can add value.

    I do hope – and this has been mentioned by some posters – that a lot of what Buckley taught has been absorbed and internalised, and that new coaches build on these skills rather than throwing them overboard.

  5. From talking to some of the younger, underage players there does appear to be a good coaching structure in place. No point in developing these structures and coaches and then not giving them the gig. I understand that the players must respect the coaches put in front of them and that is the ruthless job of the manager to ensure that no bullsxxx is allowed to develop. As regards Mike Connelly and having great respect for him I do believe he needs to temper his comments a small bit. The county board should try to encourage a situation whereby they develop good talent around themselves, eventually making themselves redundant. Then sitting back and smoking the cigar and thinking we done right by our great county. There does appear to be a renewed interest in Mayo and getting involved in Mayo. As with many club setups it is not good enough to just let new people join the set up they must be encouraged to join.

  6. Delighted to hear trials are taking place in the next few weeks and every club Junior , Intermediate and Senior will be asked if they think that have players of the ability to play for Mayo.This never happened under the 3 years of Rochford and Holmes/Connelly in 2015.Everyone should get a chance if that means calling back Enda Varley at 32, Horan was always a big fan of his and in my opinion playing his best football of his career with arguably the best club team in Ireland, or bringing in Pat Lambert or Mark Moran the 2 best 18 year olds I the County so be it, I think they have the ability to make an instant impact.But at least will know no one has been overlooked.The most important thing is the likes of Eddie Doran and Val Rougheen will get a chance to prove themselves in trials rather than trying to standout and make a name for themselves in the Mayo Junior championship.

  7. I love that Heraclitus quote – its so perfectly apt to describe James Horan’s second coming. When James stepped in the river before he came oh so close to catching the biggest fish of them all. If he comes back with better gear and lands it he won’t need to be stepping in the river because he’ll be walking on water in our eyes!

  8. Sell your Grannys your house and whatever else you have back Mayo to win Sam, although maybe not this year.
    We will see structure to are play that will be noticeable even during the warm up .
    It will take some time to get some younger talent up to speed but it will happen

  9. Welcome back James. Beginning to look forward to 2019 already. I think most supporters felt a certain amount of burn out in 2018 and the break will have done them and the players a power of good. Need new blood to challenge for positions and 2019 should be the season to do that. Build for 2020 onwards.

  10. TH, I agree that there is a need for change and a need for young blood, I also agree that Westport are now producing fine young players that need to get an opportunity. I was at the Minor final last Sunday and was very impressed , not just with the Westport players but their opponents who also had some really talented players on view. The future is bright

  11. In fairness, Mayo at any given time, have the raw material to work with, to put it up to the best teams. I have no doubt that James will, within a year, have new additions, that will go on to become household names in GAA. However, James needs to put Mayo in a position to go all the way this time. In this regard he will know only too well, that 2-3 quality scoring forwards is a must! Are they in the county?.. I think they have to be. It’s a question of identifying the potential players, and getting them on board quickly. I would then suggest that a quality sports psychologist be employed to work collectively with these forwards in order to build up teamwork, confidence and resilience. I believe it’s very achievable, and am backing Mayo to have a right cut at it in 2019. Best of luck..

  12. For me the past 3 years of Mayo football have been akin to a self-driving vehicle, with interventions by a driver and to be fair, many of those were insightful and successful and could have got us the chequered flag. Now I am slightly more optimistic that vehicle and driver will bring us all on another roller-coaster but above all consistently competitive. Best wishes to all.

  13. Good luck to James and his back room team, I agree with Man of Aran that he needs a top sports psychologist on board (Limerick Hurlers had Caroline Currid, and it paid off). A forwards coach is also a needed.

  14. Mayo have been ‘consistently competitive’ since 2011 really, even this year you could argue we were competitive. So Horan reached that target. I think we need to aim higher now. Mayo should be striving to be ‘consistently successful’. If you don’t aim to be the best then you’re chances of doing so greatly lessen.

  15. Yeah fair distinction Mayonaze. I suppose what I’d like to see is target is a Connacht title. We need to stick Galway back in their box and start heading to Croker through the front door.

  16. Think it all grand saying a Connaught title but we have to take into account the training programme into account .We need to remember the Rossies and Galway flying in league matches and flat later in the year . No doubt if James and co decided to target to be flying fit for Connaught they could but reckon he will have August in mind to be hitting top form ..

  17. 2 rounds of the super 8’s will be over by next August. It’s a bit presumptuous to be thinking like that.

  18. The football season is more compact now. Winning provincial championship is more important now. If Mayo had kept winning this year – they would have played something like 6 games in 7 weeks. This is a huge demand on players. Injuries/fatigue bound to be a factor.

  19. I echo you comments Catcol, Donie Buckley brought a great wealth of knowledge, experience and dedicated training that built this team. The players also have such high respect for him. He will be missed. I do wish James Horan, his management team, the players and all the fans a fantastic next step in our journey! Maigh Eo Abú.

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