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Mayo's eye on the big one - Eamonn

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JAMES HORAN

JAMES HORAN

JAMES HORAN

JAMES HORAN used bristle almost visibly at the suggestion that Mayo's historic inability to win All-Ireland SFC finals had somehow contaminated his team, as though this new bunch were being persecuted for the sins of teams of yore.

Then, his team lost back-to-back finals themselves.

Yet their ability to heal and re-energise is arguably their most impressive quality and if they do land the big one, no-one can say it wasn't earned the hard way.

"I remember after the first one, the Donegal defeat, they were very positive that evening in their post-match function," says Kerry manager, Eamonn Fitzmaurice who beat Mayo in two finals as a player himself back in 2004 and '06.

disappointing

"They dealt with it in the dressing room and they emerged very positive and signs on it they ended up in the All-Ireland final against last year.

"Last year's defeat was probably more disappointing and traditionally when anyone loses an All-Ireland final it can take a good while to get over."

Asked to identify the most striking difference between the Mayo teams against whom Fitzmaurice played and Horan's team, the Kerry boss was immediate with his answer.

"They are way more physical," he explained.

"That has been the hallmark of James Horan since he came in. In terms of their conditioning, they are probably the premier team in the country; Dublin are obviously at a serious level as well.

"Mayo took it there first and other teams had to react; we certainly had to in Kerry. There is a ferocious togetherness in the group, there is a massive spirit there; there is a lot of character there. They showed a lot of character against Roscommon and that was a game that they could have easily folded up the tent, gone home and be beaten but they showed a lot of character to come back and win that game.

"They have a lot of the hallmark of champions about them, they have been very, very close the last couple of years; they were only beaten by a point last year and by four in 2012.

"In neither game did they get any breaks that you need to win an All-Ireland, particularly a tight All-Ireland final so they are a serious, serious group."

champions

During his reign, Horan's team have won four Connacht SFC titles on the spin and defeated each of the last three All-Ireland champions.

Beating Kerry in Croke Park in a Championship match might be another box ticked but Fitzmaurice isn't so sure.

"Their eye is on the big prize this year," he reckons.

"Fair enough they were put to the pin of their collar by Roscommon and they showed a lot of character that day to come out.

"But against Galway and even against Cork, Cork I felt brought them back at the end with (Donnacha) O'Connor and (Brian) Hurley goals but there was just a feeling with Mayo they had the gear to go on and win the game when needed to.

"They have done enough so far this year and I think they will be eyeing a big performance on Sunday," concluded the Finuge clubman.


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