Tuesday 23 July 2019

Horan mixes old with new in second coming as Mayo boss

Mayo boss James Horan
Mayo boss James Horan

Michael Verney and Declan Rooney

There's plenty of the regulars sprinkled with a handful of fresh faces as James Horan leads Mayo into his first League tie since 2014 on Saturday night against Roscommon in Elverys MacHale Park.

The competitive start to Horan's second coming as Mayo supremo commences with a side backboned by experience with a formidable half-back line in former Footballer of the Year Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle and captain Paddy Durcan.

Aidan O'Shea is likely to be the fulcrum of the attack at No 11 but it is in the forward division where Horan selects two debutants with Brian Reape and Conor Diskin both getting a chance to stake a claim in the full-forward line.

It's also a landmark occasion for Burrishoole attacker Jason Doherty who makes his 100th appearance for Mayo having debuted in the League eight years ago against Kerry.

Roscommon's Donie Smith says they are targeting an end to the county's 35-year drought in MacHale Park. The Castlebar venue has not been a happy hunting ground for the Roscommon seniors, and their last league or championship win at the venue came in the 1984 Division 2 promotion play-off between the sides.

Smith celebrated his 26th birthday last weekend by kicking eight points as they devoured Galway in the FBD League final, but he knows the real test of his side will come on Saturday.

"It's going to be extremely tough over in Castlebar. I couldn't tell you the last time we won over there, our record is poor in Mayo," said Smith.

"We are going over with a bit of confidence but we know the league is going to be a different kettle of fish.

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"We know we'll be seriously up against it. If we put in the same work rate as we did against Galway we give ourselves a real opportunity though."

After three years of working under Kevin McStay, Smith and his colleagues have had to get used to Anthony Cunningham's methods, and already they look like a happy side. The Boyle club man said that work-rate is the big attribute Cunningham has looked for.

"I think everyone knows, between the football at St Brigid's and the hurling with Galway and Dublin, that Anthony is a guy who demands a massive work-rate. He says that if you work harder the more reward you get.

"We are really trying to buy into that. It's a long process and we'll have some tough days, and some learning days. But if we have a few more days like today [the FBD final] that's what we're looking for."

Irish Independent

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