Sport Gaelic Football

Thursday 21 September 2017

Horan admits pain even worse than last year's defeat but refuses to be drawn on future

Mayo boss rues his team's wayward finishing early on as he reveals players were out on their feet by the end

James Horan rued his team's poor finishing early on
James Horan rued his team's poor finishing early on
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

THEY gathered in the lobby of the CityWest Hotel yesterday morning to put some sense on another day in a hurt locker that threatens to burst.

Men, women and children of Mayo, wearing their colours and flying their flag, huddled together to pick the bones out of the final that got away.

The senior footballers in their purple fitted shirts side-stepped and shimmied towards the bus, the minors sheepishly kept to themselves as if embarrassed by their own success, while the Slovakian national women's soccer team were thrown into the mix as they headed home after a defeat of their own to Ireland on Sunday. Who knows what they made of the scene they encountered.

Mayo were all set to board the bus for Heuston Statation to take them on the train to Castlebar for another reception where the main guest was a no-show for the second year in a row and the seventh time in 24 years.

Sam Maguire was instead heading for Merrion Square and Coolock, and James Horan admitted that the pill tasted more bitter this time around.

"It probably feels a bit worse (than last year's defeat to Donegal)," the Mayo manager said. "I don't know why but yesterday was harder to take. We had enough possession in the first half to do more damage, we didn't do it and it eventually caught us out in the second half.

"We could have done better but we just didn't, and that's disappointing.

"We prepared very well and used a lot of lessons from last year but still came up a bit short. We have to go back and go at it again, that's all we can do."

Horan insisted that his own future would be decided on another day as he pointed at the sun shining in the sky and said: "It's too nice a day to think about that stuff."

Defender Lee Keegan certainly wants the manager to stick with a team he has guided to back-to-back All-Ireland finals, the second of which he felt was a missed opportunity.

"Ah of course I would (want him to stay)," he said. "He's got a group there that are pushing for bigger things. It would be a shame if he did (leave). Nobody is going to ask him the question. He's got a family to look after too and I suppose it's up to himself. We won't pressure him."

One criticism of Horan's team was that they did not exploit the fact that Dublin were forced to carry two injured players in Eoghan O'Gara and Rory O'Carroll for the closing stages, but the former Ballintubber boss said his players were out on their feet.

"We had guys who were absolutely flaked, we had guys pulling up and cramping, it was a really hot day," he said.

"There are a lot of games that happen like that. There are guys who probably shouldn't finish games that do. So I wouldn't make too much of that."

Another negative for Mayo was their inability to stop Stephen Cluxton finding his man from the tee, but again Horan played down the impact of the Dublin goalkeeper's kick-outs, instead concentrating on his side's missed chances.

"I thought we dealt with him very well initially," he recalled. "It would have been different if some of the kick-outs were a result of some scores we got as opposed to wides.

"He's very good at that and you can try to counteract it as much as you can, but they probably got stronger throughout the game alright.

"We made a lot of basic mistakes. We dominated in the first 20 minutes and didn't really get the scores we should have and Dublin went down and got a soft goal. So that kept them in it and they only finished a point down at half-time, so that was a killer.

"We gave away a lot of our turnover ball, right throughout the game. We had it, gave it away and Dublin counter-attacked.

"That was very hard to deal with and we used a lot of energy defending when we should have been the guys attacking, so that didn't help."

And so, they boarded the bus and headed back west with regrets a plenty and a Sam Maguire shaped void in their lives.

No matter how familiar that feeling is, it doesn't get any easier.

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