Friday 20 September 2019

Full-time county managers is a valid concept - James Horan

Aidan O’Shea in action against Ciaran McDevitt during the All-Stars tour match in Boston
Aidan O’Shea in action against Ciaran McDevitt during the All-Stars tour match in Boston
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Former Mayo manager James Horan sees validity in the payment of GAA managers in the future on the back of an ever-increasing workload and responsibility.

Almost three years on from the association's firm rejection of the concept of payment to managers, following the publication of a discussion document on the subject framed by GAA director-general Paraic Duffy, Horan has made the case for appointing managers on a professional basis.

He cites the 'unsustainability' of harmonising a busy work career with the scale of a sideline brief as a cause for change.

Horan, who stepped down after four years in charge in the wake of Mayo's defeat to Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final replay last August, sees merit in re-examining the status of the inter-county manager within the game.


"It's an interesting concept," he said. "I don't know will that ever be the case but it's a very valid idea. If you think of some of the set-ups at the moment, if you take a management set-up at inter-county level, in some of the top teams you have 12 or 14 involved. Some of the medical (personnel) on that team will be paid to do the role and rightfully so. They're trained professionals at what they do," he added.

Former Mayo boss James Horan
Former Mayo boss James Horan

"But in a lot of cases you have a manager who is managing that whole group. He's putting in crazy stuff and is not getting paid. And that's the case in a lot of counties. That's not sustainable. I genuinely don't think it is.

"If you want to manage to the best of your ability everything else needs to row in behind it. If you're only looking for one or two per cent improvement, if you think about it, you're coaching or managing at a certain level but you're working as well.

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"So if you could get rid of your job you would be able to commit even more or maybe be a better coach than what you are but you're always going to be pushed to give more and more time."

Recent comments in a book written by Offaly's 1982 All-Ireland-winning manager and Irish Independent columnist Eugene McGee about payments made to GAA managers were disputed by Horan.

"It was an awful sweeping statement to make because, in my experience, it's not the case," he said.

Horan was speaking in conjunction with the GAA/GPA Opel All-Stars tour to Boston where he managed the 2014 team to defeat against their 2013 counterparts in an exhibition match in Canton, home to the Irish Cultural Centre.

He admitted he would love to be still managing Mayo but work and family circumstances dictated that it was time to move on.

He has been approached to manage two other counties since he stepped down but doesn't envisage managing against his own county in the future.

"Famous last words, but that's where I am at the moment. I don't think so. Imagine what Cillian O'Connor and Aidan O'Shea would say to me if I managed someone else. I'd never hear the end of it!" he laughed.

"Make no mistake, I'd love to be the manager of Mayo still, would absolutely love to be involved with those guys.

"They're a great group and we'd have huge respect for each other but life needs to go on as well and just where I am with work, five young kids, that's all been on ice for four years really."

Pressed on which game he would most like to have another chance at, Horan offered the 2012 All-Ireland final defeat to Donegal ahead of subsequent losses to Dublin and Kerry.

"When I think about it. I'd like a crack at that. We learned an awful lot that year and then through the final. That's one you'd like. There's a load of games you'd like another go at but that's probably one.

"We've been in a lot of tight games. Any tight game that you're not successful in, if you could only go back and do this or that... you'll never be able to prove if you did something different that it would work either but you'd always like the opportunity."


His conviction that this Mayo team will win an All-Ireland remains unwavering.

"I think the experience, the knowledge, the know-how and the culture that they work in now and that they've developed, I think it's very, very strong. It's very robust so that they'll always be competitive.

"We just maybe need a few things to line up for us. That would help, but it could be soon. Sooner than you think."

He expressed regret for Mayo football that there was an element of controversy over the handling of the appointment process for his successor in September. "It's more rubbish for Mayo football which is what we tried to get rid of that kind of stuff.

"From my point of view, it's completely against the philosophy we tried to put in as a team. That was just sloppy and poor in every way you could look at it. We just need football to start down in Mayo, that's what we need to happen."

Horan has however maintained a diplomatic stance over the refereeing of their All-Ireland semi-final replay against Kerry, a performance Cormac Reilly was widely criticised for but accepts it will be difficult to appoint him for a Mayo game in the near future.

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