The new Mayo manager is due to be appointed tomorrow night, with a press briefing at which the announcement will be made set to be held following a meeting of the County Board that’s scheduled for 9 pm. One way or another, we’ll all be put out of our misery before heading for the scratcher tomorrow night but I’m still hopeful that the right decision will be made and that James Horan will be the man who’ll get the job.
This report in today’s Indo provides confirmation of stories that I’d picked up around McHale Park on Sunday that Horan’s star is, at the eleventh hour, on the rise. His own confident stewardship on the line for Ballintubber in the county semi-final has been an obvious factor in this – making the timing of his interview all but perfect from his point of view – as has the shrewd addition of James Nallen to his backroom team. Nallen is the sort of man that will command respect in any company and, combined with Horan’s burgeoning reputation on the sideline, they’re starting to look like the Dream Ticket.
By contrast, Tommy Lyons is, from what I gather, likely to pitch up as a one-man band who will rely on the County Board to fit him out with a local backroom team. All that Tommy Lyons has to offer is, as a result, the Tommy Lyons brand and, as I understand it, even his backers may now be beginning to see that this simply isn’t a proposition that will fly.
This is a seminal moment for those whose responsibility it is to pick the man who we all want to see steer the county team out of the ditch that Johnno drove us into. It’s a big decision and those of us who have the luxury of watching on from the sidelines need to be aware of that – it’s all too easy to damn those making the decision regardless of which choice they make.
And it’s very easy – I know, I’ve done it myself – to take cheap shots at those we don’t like in furthering the cause of those we do. In this regard, I think we need to be scrupulously fair to Tommy Lyons (and Tony McGarry, though I think everyone now accepts that he’s not seriously in the running at this stage) and his motives for wanting to become Mayo manager.
I once thought that Tommy might have been a good option but that was at the end of the Maughan I era, when he seemed to be one of the new breed of forward-thinking managers. But that was over a decade ago and Tommy has now been out of inter-county management for more than half of that time, during which time the game has moved on enormously.
All of the current breed of successful managers (and, by success, I mean those who can take the talent they have at their disposal and maximise it where it matters in the championship) come from a different era and they all have an entirely different approach to the game than the one that someone like Tommy Lyons could bring to us right now. Will Tommy Lyons bring a different perspective than someone like John O’Mahony, whose management style is of the same era? I don’t think he would.
James Horan, by contrast, is cut from the same cloth as the likes of James MacCartan, Kieran McGeeney, Pat Gilroy and Kevin Walsh and, with the right team around him, we can I reckon be confident that the foundations for significant improvements in our fortunes will be painstakingly laid, based on the ethics of hard work and commitment and leaving no stone unturned to ensure that all available talent is utilised to the full. Can we have the same confidence that a management team led by Tommy Lyons would lead us down this same road? I don’t think we can.
And that’s the nub of it. The other factors that have been dragged into the debate – such as the media bullshit, arseboxing and whether or not his roots are really in the county – simply aren’t relevant. It’s a question of who is the best man for the job and which one of them has the best team around him. That man has to be James Horan.
If the selection panel is prepared to put petty politics and all the rest to one side on this one crucial decision that could determine so profoundly the direction the county team goes in over the next few years, then there is only way this appointment process can go. It’s a big call for them to make but, if they stand back and take their decision in a dispassionate manner, it should also be an easy one. There’s still time for them to make the right decision – that time is now.