Mortimer timing puts contentious call by Horan in a positive light

Frank Roche

IT'S four years since Conor Mortimer and Andy Moran sat down for an end-of-season interview with the Mayo News.

At one point, the following curve ball was thrown Mortimer's way: "Some people would feel that Mayo will win nothing with you on the team. That you're not a team player. What would you say to them?"

The response was classic Conor: "They'll win nothing without me either."

Next Sunday, neither Mortimer nor Moran will tog out as Mayo seek to bring an end to 61 years of All-Ireland suffering. But that is where the similarities end.

Team captain Moran is not playing because he can't, denied by the cruel fates of season-ending injury. Mortimer is not togging because, well, he won't.

"But surely that's all down to James Horan?" will be the riposte of the pro-Mortimer camp. "It's not that he won't -- he wasn't being picked in the first place."

No he wasn't, but that is the manager's prerogative and Horan has more than justified his stance by bringing Mayo to their first All-Ireland final in six years.

It was also Mortimer's prerogative to walk: he wouldn't be the first disaffected marquee name to quit in such circumstances, and he won't be the last. End of.

Except this isn't the "end of" his story, because Mortimer has chosen the very week of Mayo's All-Ireland reappearance to bare his soul. There are ways of shuffling quietly into inter-county retirement. This is not one of them.

It's not that Mortimer had anything particularly revealing to say but it's the timing of the interview that grates.

What does he hope to gain? Does he think it will help his county's cause? Does part of him actually want Horan and his erstwhile colleagues to lose, in the same way that previous Mayo teams including Mortimer collapsed against Kerry in 2004 and 2006?

"No, I'd never be negative like that towards any team I play for. I wouldn't have that in me," Mortimer insisted.

We'd give him the benefit of the doubt, save for one nagging memory -- the fact that back in July, at the height of the fallout from his original defection, his family went public in an incendiary way.

Timing, they say, is everything. Mortimer quit in the middle of the week before Mayo's Connacht final against Sligo, clearly irked at his omission from the starting team for the second game running.


Then on the Thursday night, a family statement was released to Midwest Radio. On one level it read as a predictably ringing endorsement of Mortimer's prolific genius, but you didn't have to pore between the lines to see it as a savage attack on James Horan. One designed to cause maximum damage before a massive game for his team and their county.

Among the various points of contention were claims that Horan "never contacted him" during his long injury absence in 2011. That the Mayo boss didn't attend a certain club game to which he was supposedly notified, even though Mortimer was by then back playing "super football" for Shrule/Glencorrib.

That following his 'Man of the Match' performance against Dublin during this year's league, he was dropped for the next game against Kerry. That he was dropped for the Connacht semi-final against Leitrim because of a "plan referred to by the manager" entailing the discovery of two goalscoring forwards -- a plan that has "not materialised".

"He is currently fourth choice as a corner forward and it has destroyed his confidence," the statement trumpeted. Nor were his family happy that there were four Shrule/Glencorrib players on the Mayo panel under the previous manager, and "now there are none".

The latter point is, ahem, "ironic" in the context that Conor Mortimer now plays with Parnell's in Dublin. As for the minor detail that Mayo were going nowhere fast before Horan's arrival and have now reached an All-Ireland final with no Shrule player involved ... we'll let you decide.

To be honest, this column had no intention or desire to revisit the Mortimer saga this week, of all weeks, until Conor chose to put himself centre stage again.

Two months ago -- according to, you guessed it, that statement -- all he wanted was "his privacy and integrity protected".

Now he's more than happy to go public and talk about how he has nothing to apologise for.

And maybe he doesn't, and maybe Mayo could do with the option of springing their all-time record scorer with 20 minutes to go next Sunday.

But nor should we be blinded to the fact that Mortimer never was a "goalscoring" forward; that he has a poor record when the bar is raised at All-Ireland final time; that Mayo in his absence have scored 3-18 and 0-19 in their last two Croker outings.

Meanwhile, spare a thought for Andy Moran as he does what he can to encourage his comrades in their history-making quest.