HAVING SAT ALONGSIDE him in the Sky Sports studio for the past couple of seasons, Senan Connell is a good man to assess what James Horan can bring to the table on his second stint in charge of Mayo.
Horan is back in the hot seat of his native county, who he previously managed from 2011 to 2014. In the meantime, he’s studied a Masters in coaching, sampled several professional set-ups in various codes and managed at club level in both hurling and football.
Horan stayed plugged into the inter-county scene through his TV work with Sky, which Connell feels will benefit him hugely on his return to the sideline.
“When he came on board first of all, certainly you would have got the idea that he was – I wouldn’t say happy to be out, but maybe he’d gone so far,” said Connell.
“I think last year you got a sense from him, because we were pinging questions off him believe me all the time about whether he’d any interest.
“He’s very good and you guys will know it, he’s very shrewd in how he just bats them questions away. He won’t give information away too easy. But come the All-Ireland final day in studio, post-match he was asked live on air.
“At that time his name was in the media because it had been seven or eight weeks since Kildare had beaten them, you got a sense off him then that he was going to go back. But certainly not in the early years.
“But I will say he’s a very shrewd man, a very intelligent man, a very intelligent manager I’d say as well.
Connell was speaking at eir Sport’s launch of its Allianz Leagues coverage.
Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO
In his first spell over Mayo, the players spoke about how Horan changed the culture within the set-up. This time around, it’s expected he’ll be even more tactically nuanced and will bring different innovations to the table.
“If you think about it, we’re sitting in a TV studio there with Peter Canavan and Jim McGuinness,” continued the former Dublin forward.
“So you’re tapping into brains that have come from different angles and if anywhere at the back of his mind he was thinking about going back, if it was me I’d have a notepad full of stuff after every round of games you’re working with.
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“As a manager, you can imagine how much time is taken up managing players, venues and all the other stuff. Whereas James was just going to venues, prepping stuff, watching videos of games, analysing in detail with touchscreen stuff.
“He’ll have a whole armoury of stuff that he didn’t have before. Plus an inside line, I’m sure he would have been tapping brains and ideas from all of us. So he’ll have that as well.”
Jim McGuinness pictured in the Sky Sports studio during a game.
Source: James Crombie/INPHO
While it’s difficult to see anyone taking down Dublin once again this year, Connell believes Mayo are the best-placed side to challenge them.
“It’s a difficult one. I think Mayo have made a great decision in bringing James Horan back because if nothing else, we now know you need time to develop a culture. It’s all about the culture really and Dublin already have that.
“With James being there before, the whole bunch of players he had there before and then to bring in the newer guys, I think he’ll get that culture fairly fast because they can tap into it.
“That’s one team you’ll always be wary of. If they can keep guys like Cillian (O’Connor) injury free, nail down a spot for Aidan O’Shea, they’re always dangerous.”
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