Tuesday 28 March 2017

Horan plays it cool after heroic upset

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

YOU'D expect Mayo to lose the plot, right? When they'd shipped 1-4 in the first quarter, the bookies, apparently, pushed their odds out as far as 18/1.

Yet the underdogs saw off the All-Ireland champions and scored what was Mayo's first championship victory over the Rebels since the year of that famous schemozzle down at the GPO.

So we were expecting a teeny-weeny bit of excitement. Manager James Horan might chuck about a few bombastic soundbites; Alan Dillon might come in whooping and swinging a Cork shirt around his head; and young Aidan O'Shea, a well-known member of the 'Twitterati', would surely be shouting "fooled ye suckers".

Yet Mayo's reaction was as calm and measured as their demolition of the reigning champions. The trio sat quietly at the top table and were virtually stoney-faced throughout.

There wasn't a hint of triumphalism or bragging. Wasn't the fact that they were so heavily written off a huge motivation?

influenced

"There were were a lot of factors," Horan said. "They'd a game recently, there was lot of talk in the media about a Cork and Kerry semi-final, maybe that influenced us somehow, I'm not sure. We knew if we could work as hard as we could we might shock them. I don't think they were ready."

Ah c'mon, James! Weren't Cork meant to wipe the floor with ye? "I didn't hear that at all, who would have mentioned that?" he grinned.

"Stuff like that is a small part of it to be honest. We have our own aims and sometimes what they say can help us a little bit, but we just work on what we can do and what we can control."

All he wanted to talk about was Mayo's phenomenal tackling and work-rate, pointing out that they were a little "shell-shocked in the first 15 minutes".

"Cork were on top, we'd conceded a soft goal and it took us a while to really play like we could, but when we sorted that out I think we dominated the majority of the rest of the game," the Mayo boss said.

"We kicked some bad wides, we rushed it a little bit, you could see we were getting excited because we could see the victory, but we settled down again after Cork had a goal chance and Fintan Goold missed it."

Horan described their semi-final clash with Kerry as "another great challenge" and insisted they'll have no trouble handling the hype.

"You haven' t seen us jumping around or shouting our mouths off in the past," he said. "Mayo people are a bit more cautious than they may have been."

Mayo's vaunted semi-final opponents certainly pose an interesting dilemma for their midfield brothers, whose parents both hail from Kerry.

"There'll be split loyalties in the O'Shea household for a few weeks and a bit of slagging," chuckled Aidan O'Shea.

"But I'm looking forward to it. I only played them at minor and we had the bragging rights for a few weeks after that so hopefully there'll be the same result."

Cork manager Conor Counihan refused to look for excuses. "At half-time we felt we might regroup, but the scores didn't come," he said. "We didn't get enough ball up, and when we did, we lacked a bit of composure, but Mayo were the better team over the 70 minutes, hats off to them.

"They seemed to have an extra bounce of energy but some of that is to be expected, 'challengers versus champions', and maybe you guys didn't make my job any easier," Counihan quipped.

But Conor, journalists don't kick scores and ye, the defending All-Ireland champions, managed just one measly point in the second half! Doesn't that indicate a worrying lack of fight?

"Players are not machines," he stressed. "The day they're down is not the day for kicking them. I won't be doing any of that. I'd certainly be very proud of them."

Irish Independent

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