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Horan begins talent search in two-pronged bid to lift Mayo

JAMES HORAN is planning a twin-track approach to Connacht club championship and Mayo inter-county commitments.

The 38-year-old recently appointed Mayo team manager will meet with county board officials this week to plan an assessment of talent in the county prior to Christmas.

And then he will turn his attention to Ballintubber's Connacht Club SFC semi-final against Galway champions Killererin at Tuam on November 7.

This is uncharted water for tiny parish club Ballintubber, who won their first senior title in their centenary year by beating Castlebar Mitchels last Sunday.

They only came up from intermediate grade since Horan took over as manager in 2007 and Mayo fans are hoping that their new manager will have a similar impact at inter-county level.

His first task is to assess the talent base in Mayo. Then he has to get a panel ready for the 2011 Connacht FBD League, which Mayo open on January 9 against Leitrim.

A month later, on Saturday February 5, All-Ireland finalists Down visit McHale Park as the NFL campaign gets under way.


Horan has already displayed two key qualities at club level -- he has organised the Ballintubber team to play to its strengths and ensured a wholehearted honesty of effort among the players.

The two-time All Star also showed he won't be hogging the limelight and he prefers to let his team's performances bear witness to his behind-the-scenes work.

His enjoyment of their county final win had as much to do with the pleasure it gave Ballintubber's supporters as it did for himself.

"It's brilliant for the team and for the parish. They've had a bit of tragedy in the last couple of weeks so it's just a brilliant relief and sense of occasion for people, so it's great," he said.

Reflecting on the standard he has encountered in Mayo club football over the last few years, Horan was realistic.

"Overall, I think the standard is pretty good. Maybe seven or eight years ago we might have had a little more strength in the county in terms of club football with teams like Crossmolina and Ballina, but there are a lot of young teams coming through and things are starting to pick up," he said.

"When you look at the last five years and the performances of the Mayo minors and U-21s, there's plenty of hope there.

"Things didn't go well at county senior level last year for one reason or another, but we will be looking to get back to basics.

"There's nothing scheduled yet," Horan added, when the prospect of trial games was put to him. "I'm sitting down with the county board during the week and we'll plan out what's the best thing to do.

"But it's first things first. Ballintubber have a job to do."

Irish Independent