Mayo are still All-Ireland contenders, insists former boss Horan
For the first time in four years, James Horan will watch Mayo start the football championship from the outside looking in.
He retains a strong connection to the players with whom he suffered the agony of defeat in two All-Ireland finals while his final game in charge came in last year's epic All-Ireland semi-final replay defeat at the hands of future All-Ireland champions Kerry in Limerick.
Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes have come in but they'll be pulling from largely the same group of players. And despite concerns that they have already given so much, Horan believes they remain contenders for ultimate honours.
"Ah of course I always think that Mayo can win it every year," he said. "This is one thing that I think is changing though, with S and C (strength and conditioning) and with the science. I suppose in football, I think some players' careers will be extended because training will be modified and their game time and everything will be modified to maximise them for when you need them.
"There's definitely a few players on each panel where that sort of regime is in place. I'd trust the S and C and trust the planning that the players will be fresh when they need to be fresh."
Horan's first game in charge almost ended in disaster when they brought to extra-time by London in Ruislip. This time around, the new management team head to Salthill to face Galway. They have looked to be a progressive outfit under Kevin Walsh and, even without Shane Walsh, have a potent forward line.
Mayo will head to Pearse Stadium for the first time since, when under the management of Horan, they dished out a 17-point hammering to their hosts. That result equalled the county's record championship win against the Tribesmen and enjoyed their biggest victory margin since 1907 and Horan believes that result will hold a significant motivation for the home side.
"I'd say it'll play more as a factor for Galway to be honest," he continued. "I'd say Galway would be, like, that day we won very strong, we won big on the scoreline and we on big (physicality) and we won it every single way, on their own home patch.
"There'll be a lot of the same players who played that day playing on June (14). So I'd say they'd be keen to sort that out. It should be a motivational factor for Galway."
Still, Horan expects to see his county hit the ground running.
"I think you're going to see Mayo coming out of the blocks fairly quick this year, they'd be very keen to get a good performance down.
"After the end of the league where with the last couple of games to go they were in top position and looking to get to the semi-finals and they had a couple of indifferent performances then."
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