Gap between Connacht rivals increasing - James Horan
Expect a more defensive Mayo, former manager tells Colm Keys
Galway manager Kevin Walsh feels the gap between the arch Connacht rivals is closing but former Mayo boss James Horan sees a significant shift in the other direction.
Horan senses a lack of energy around Galway football that does not augur well for the last team to put a championship foot forward this summer.
The four-in-a-row Connacht-winning manager believes the impetus provided by younger Mayo players, allied to the loss of some key Galway components, gives the reigning champions a decisive advantage.
"I know Kevin (Walsh) mentioned about closing the gap but I'd be the opposite. I think the gap is increasing," said Horan.
"Galway have lost some very good players, Michael Lundy, Johnny Duane, Fiontán ó Curraoin, you saw a lot of guys with Corofin winning an All-Ireland club title who aren't near the panel. If you talk to people in Galway there was usually a huge energy about where they're going and what the potential was, but you don't sense that any more.
"You almost get the sense that everyone in Galway thinks if they can get out of Castlebar with under a 10-point beating or a six-point beating that they'll be happy enough. To me, Mayo/Galway has definitely lost that bit of competitiveness."
Horan's harsh critique of Galway football includes a suggestion that they are not doing everything they can to recover as a football force.
"If you look at the pedigree or what you can make out of the U-21 category, Galway have three All-Ireland U-21-winning teams so it's surprising you wouldn't get a decent percentage of those coming through.
"I am surprised they have gone back. In my time playing against Galway it was always nip and tuck. They don't seem to have progressed like a couple of the top teams who are trying everything humanly possible. You just don't get that sense from Galway that they are doing everything they can."
He feels a Galway full-back line, with two championship debutants, Eoghan Kerin and David Wynne, will be targeted by Mayo.
"Going into a game with the experience of Mayo's forward line, and with two new debutants in your full-back line, that's going to be gunned at. If you were the manager of Mayo, what would you be looking to do there? So that will be an area that they will all look to target for sure. It's a good opportunity for those guys but that full-back line is going to be under pressure."
Horan had previously hailed the controversial move by the Mayo players to oust the previous management as "courageous" and sees it now as forging even closer links between them.
And he feels the right 'shot selection' by the frontmen can nudge Mayo closer towards the elusive prize.
"I'd say that shot selection for me is probably a key one. Play it, no matter what, until you get into the scoring zone where you get your eight from 10 shots, not taking them from an area where you get your two from 10 shots.
"I think one of the key things you're going to see tomorrow night is a different formation from Mayo.
"I think that throughout the league we saw various attempts at it, then when you have a 10-week break after the league and you have a training camp in England, where you can train twice a day, you get to really bed down what you want to do for the summer or how you want to approach things. Mayo are going to be more defensively-based that they have been."
Mayo's youthful impetus is also a factor, he figures.
"You have five or six guys who appear to be very ready to jump into senior championship football. When you add that to the players who are there, the age profile is very good. If Mayo perform like they can, I think they will be extremely strong and much too strong for Galway." James Horan will be co-commentator on Sky Sports' live broadcast of the Connacht SFC semi-final between Mayo and Galway in MacHale Park tomorrow night (7pm)