BEFORE James Horan decided that this latest fatal blow to Mayo’s All-Ireland ambitions would be the last under his management, he had made the long and forlorn walk in the dusk from the Mayo dressing-room to a small room under the main stand to face the media.
He was asked, of course, about his future plans, but declined to shine any light on his intention at that stage, saying that question was for another time. Little did we know that time would come just hours later. Instead, he expressed pride in the players’ effort that had seen them lose their second All-Ireland semi-final to Kerry during his four-year tenure.
“I am immensely proud of the team and the players, the character and the effort and commitment they showed today. We came up short. The second thing I suppose is we are very disappointed. To be so close in the game, and extra-time and to come up short is hard in a semi-final.”
The refereeing was mentioned as a possible Mayo gripe but he shunned the invite. “I am not looking at refereeing calls, that’s no good to me, no good for the soul. We had a couple of chances and were attacking a few times and gave away sloppy possession, and Kerry came back very well and they got vital turnovers and that seemed to give them energy.”
He felt his full-back line did “pretty well” but accepted that Mayo gave second best in the middle of the field. “Kerry were strong in the middle of the field today, they did well there and that gave them a platform.”
As for his own players’ reaction, he said they could “barely speak” and that they needed to learn and move on. “They are a serious bunch of guys and there are a lot of talented players there and good players coming through, they need to learn and come back stronger.”
Horan said that the decision not to start Aidan O’Shea and Cillian O’Connor for the second half in normal time was down to blood injuries that needed time to treat.
A parting question: he is asked if there is something missing that leaves Mayo short-changed on days like this. Can he see the team win an All-Ireland? “Ah, yeah maybe you just get beaten by a better team and have to take in on the chin. This team is learning and developing all the time and if that trend continues then time is the only factor.”