Horan left fuming at 'unprecedented' attack on integrity
Published 04/08/2014 | 02:30
On 40 minutes, a Mexican wave, that international barometer of boredom at stadia everywhere, rumbled in one corner of the Cusack Stand.
To that point, it had been a largely unremarkable game falling in line with most of the championship so far. What followed was breathless drama that saw Mayo build a game-winning lead and then lose it again, a refereeing controversy and post-match blood letting.
In the end, Mayo had a point to spare, though Cork felt they'd get another chance when Colm O'Neill tapped over a late free to cut the gap to the minimum. The Ballyclough man wasn't in the form for talking afterwards, but claimed referee Cormac Reilly told him there was a "minute or so" left as he lined up his free. The final whistle came immediately afterwards.
The needle that permeated parts of the game carried into the media room afterwards and, despite the controversial end to the game, it was Mayo who carried the biggest grievance. Manager James Horan hit out at what he called a "new low" from Cork's management team, citing Cork selector Ronan McCarthy's comments concerning the "tactical fouling" by Cillian O'Connor and Kevin McLoughlin.
"Our character was challenged in the lead-up to this game as well by the Cork management, which I think is unprecedented in Gaelic football, where a management team name players," said a clearly angry Horan (pictured).
"For us it was taking the integrity of two of our players and of our team and I think it is something that is disgraceful and they should be ashamed of what they did.
"Does that make victory sweeter for us? It probably does. I just think it is a new low when you have opposition management naming specific players and taking their integrity and their good name. We coach and we try and play as well as we can all the time within the rules of the game ... To come out and say that is just not good enough at this level. They will face the Cork public after that, but we are happy with where we are."
Horan's issue centred around the name-checking of his players. And when it was put to him that he had mentioned referee Joe McQuillan specifically in the run up to last year's All-Ireland final, he insisted they were different issues.
"I haven't heard anyone mention players and specifically target players before. I mentioned Joe McQuillan before because he had reffed an 'A' versus 'B' games for Dublin, it's as simple as that. I think it is a fair thing, all I was looking for was fairness. But to target players' character I think is just disgraceful, that's my opinion.
"I just think it's a very low act, I genuinely do, taking a player's character and what he was saying about them just wasn't right.
"It's not right, I know it's not right so for someone to come out that flippantly – Ronan McCarthy in particular to say that – I just think is completely wrong.
"I think that's a dangerous area, that if management can say anything they want about anyone, not knowing anything about them or the values or what we try to do as a team, how we try and play.
"We're the ones who try to play the game with an attacking based football, open and free-flowing, we're not the ones that who put everyone behind the ball.
"So, I just found it a particularly poor reflection on the Cork management."
The two managers didn't shake hands after the game, but Brian Cuthbert didn't offer a reply when Horan's comments were put to him. He also wasn't for dwelling on the couple of late decisions that went against his side.
O'Neill seemed to be tripped as he was pulling the trigger on goal that would have levelled the game.
"I'll have to watch it on TV," Cuthbert said. "But look, you're going to have calls for and against you, some days they go with you, some days they don't.
"We're certainly not looking at the referee as to why we're not going on to the semi-final. We just left ourselves with too much of a hill to climb after half-time, going in six or seven points down, it's a huge ask to come back against a very good team like Mayo. I'd be immensely proud of my guys, they gave everything they've got.
Horan's men are back in a fourth successive All-Ireland semi-final for the first time since 1951, their last year to lift Sam Maguire. But the Mayo boss admitted they have yet to reach the heights of last season.
"We are not at that level yet, definitely, but I suppose we are winning games and getting a little bit better and showed glimpses today of where we can get to.
"We just need to sustain that and do that for longer periods of games because as we progress it obviously gets tougher. Yeah, we need to up our game, but we will."
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