‘It’s the wrongest word going. You ask any player, they love what they’re doing’

MAYO BOSS JAMES Horan has rejected suggestions that demands on inter-county players have escalated in his time away from management and believes it is wrong to talk of sacrifices being made by players.

Horan is gearing up for Mayo’s opening 2019 championship assignment on Sunday 5 May in a Connacht first round tie against New York.

The tie in Gaelic Park will be his first championship encounter in his second spell in charge. His last summer tie in charge was the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final replay against Kerry in the Gaelic Grounds. After four seasons watching on he has returned to inter-county management and is able to assess shifts in the sport in the interim.

But the notion that there has been a spike in what is expected of players is not one that Horan is on board with.

“I don’t think so. I’ve had this debate many times. I know young swimmers in Castlebar that are spending more time in the pool than inter-county players are on the field.

“I know an amount of cyclists, middle-aged men who are spending more time on their bikes, and no one knows or cares they are doing it. I haven’t ever bought into that.

“It’s (sacrifice) the wrongest word going. You ask any player, they love what they’re doing.

“I think it’s important that their work-life balance integration is right. We’ve tried to look at that and we’ve done a lot of good work with the GPA to make sure that’s right for players.

“The age profile of the team we have, Seamie O’Shea is getting married on Friday, Chris Barrett got married at Christmas, Kevin McLoughlin is just recently married.

“There is a lot of that happening. You can’t section away certain things; it’s got to align as much as possible. We’re very conscious of that.”

Defender Lee Keegan made some striking comments last week about attitudes in the GAA towards players drinking and the bans placed on some teams. Horan insists he trusts his players to make the right decision and it is not an issue for them.

Mayo footballer Lee Keegan.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“If you need that sort of stance or position, I’m not quite sure where the motivation of the players is at. I’m lucky enough that the guys that I’m working with, this stuff never comes up. It actually never comes up. It genuinely doesn’t.

“You are not going to train every day or prepare your body every day and then do daft stuff. You’ll naturally or organically fall off a panel if that stuff is happening. The group will cast that type of thing aside.

“It takes its own course. It never comes up. It is not an issue for us. Maybe, I am just lucky as a manager to have such a motivated bunch. That’s certainly where we are.”

Mayo were recently crowned Division 1 football league champions.

Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Horan pointed to a greater emphasis on technology as a key change in preparing a team since his last spell ended in 2014 and feels that Gaelic football is ‘a bit more positive’ now as a spectacle.

“A lot of the principles are the same, of what you’re trying to do and how you’re trying to go about it.

“There is a bit more technology now, you’re a little bit more effective with your time. The loading would be more accurate, the metres you would cover in a week and that kind of stuff.

“It’s more precise and that should lead to a better prepared player when you need it. Overall, it’s about working with people to get as much stuff right as you can. That will never change.

“Some of the science and technology has definitely come on, even since we were there last.

“I do think it’s (the game of Gaelic football) a bit more positive from what I remember. Maybe that’s just the way I want to see it. I remember playing a couple of games and watching a couple of games and the amount of attacks that teams had were not enough to win games.

“There was a containment and trying to win games on 11 and 12 points. I don’t think you are going to win many games that way. I think there is a realisation and you see teams that are trying to push more and press on opposition kick-outs and that gives you a starting base for being higher up the pitch.

“There are a few things like that that are definitely happening. The game is getting back up into a strong position. It’s getting here. Hopefully that continues.”

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