Mayo boss James Horan has told his players and the fans to forget all talk of his county’s long wait for an All-Ireland title ahead of Sunday’s clash with Dublin in the 2013 final.
The westerners have lost six All-Ireland deciders since they last won Sam Maguire back in 1951, but Horan insists history will have no bearing on Sunday’s eagerly awaited showdown with the Dubs.
“There was a lot of rubbish around Mayo football. A lot of stuff talked, a lot of this, that and the other,” Horan said.
“We did look at where we were at when we took over and looked at what we thought best for Mayo football and we certainly cut away any of the rubbish that was associated with the inter-county team.
“We got guys that were interested in working, in putting their heads down, in being as good as they could be and playing for Mayo, and I think we are seeing some of the results of that.”
Horan insists his team must now change history, not fear it. He added, “You don’t ignore it, no. There is obviously a lot of commentary on it. It is not something that particularly bothers me or this team, I can safely say.
“We lost a final last year, we didn’t play as well as we could have and that is why we lost it so there is no romantic notions around that.
“As regards the amount of finals, 1951 is the last time we won it but we genuinely don’t see that as a pressure. If anything, it is a bit of wind at our back and that is the way we look at it. It is not something that unduly bothers me.”
Now three years in charge of the Connacht champions, Horan insists the progress made by his Mayo team over time will stand to them against a fancied Dublin side.
“They are a confident crew now but when I took over our first championship game was over in London and in the heat of battle there were memories of Sligo and Longford from the year before there,” he said.
“So confidence was a bit rattled at that stage but there is nothing like grinding out that win, and being four points down against Galway at halftime in the next game and five points down at halftime in the game after that against Roscommon.
“We came through all those so we were in an awful lot of dark places that year and we came through them all.
“We have been on a very steady upward curve since 2010. So, yeah, confidence is high and deservingly so because of the ability we have but mainly because of the preparation work that we have been doing over the last three years.”
That confidence and mental toughness will be crucial come Sunday according to Horan.
“The bigger the game, the smaller the item that destroys it. Yes fitness-wise I think the teams cancel each other out and if you look at the run-ins it definitely cancels each other out.
“But on big-game days for me it’s your skill and technique and sticking to the process is what will see you through,” he said.
Cillian O’Connor is Mayo’s big injury worry after injuring his shoulder again in the semifinal, but Horan may be prepared to risk him from the start on Sunday according to reports.
Gavin an Oasis of Calm
Dublin boss Jim Gavin will be the calmest man in Croke Park for Sunday’s All-Ireland football final against Mayo according to his selector Declan Darcy.
The former Dublin player says his good friend is calmness personified in the heat of battle and that will stand to the Dubs in the big game.
Darcy said, “He’s a calm individual. Very focused. Maybe if his shoes weren’t polished! He likes looking good alright. In fairness, he is that composed.
“He is a top manager. You need the tools, the players. That’s hugely important. Your beliefs in football must match the players you have. There’s no point in having them yin and yang. Obviously you have a clear focus and work ethic that’s better than everybody else’s.
“You have to let the players see that. If they do I think they’ll buy into it and kick on with you. Any manager has to earn their respect. We walked into a room of players with All-Ireland medals.
“We know them but you still have to earn their respect and show you still want to win as much as them. That’s very important.”
Gavin and Darcy worked together with the Dublin under-21 side before taking charge of the seniors this year, and the selector says the young talent at their disposal is frightening as the likes of Ciaran Kilkenny, Paul Mannion and Jack McCaffrey make their mark on the national stage.
Darcy added, “They have huge talent. To be performing on a Dublin team at such a young age tells you that. but they’re seriously well grounded. They’re good kids. Well coached right up through underage levels.
“It’s a huge reflection of the coaches at minor and under-16 level to get them to this level to be able to play senior with Dublin at 19. Dessie Farrell, last year with the minors. All that work being put in has kept them well grounded and focused on wanting to play football in the right way.”
Clare Juniors Take Title
CLARE’S under-21s showed their seniors how it’s done with an emphatic 2-28 to 0-12 win over Antrim in the All-Ireland under-21 hurling final in Thurles on Saturday.