As managers put the final preparations into their teams ahead of the Allianz Football League opening weekend in ten days time, a lot of talk surrounds James Horan’s return to the inter-county fold and whether he can reignite the spark that saw Mayo reach four All-Ireland finals in six years.</
Throughout his four-year hiatus, Horan was also part of a star-studded Sky Sports panel alongside Peter Canavan and Jim McGuinness. Another man who was on that panel was former Dublin footballer Senan Connell.
Connell thinks Horan’s time working with Canavan and McGuinness can only be an advantage as he returns to inter-county management.
“If you think about it, we’re sitting in a studio with Jim McGuinness and Peter Canavan, so we’re tapping brains that come from different angles, so believe me if there was any chance he was thinking about going back, if it was me I’d have a notepad full of stuff.
“James was just going to venues, prepping stuff, watching videos of games, analysing in detail, he’ll have a whole armoury of stuff he didn’t have before, plus an inside line, I’m sure he’ll have been tapping the brains and ideas of all of us.”
Mayo captain, Cillian O’Connor feels Horan will return with a wealth of knowledge having been involved in the Mayo club scene.
“He would have managed a club team in Mayo so he would know a lot of the younger players around the county, he would know the older players from his previous stint.
“He is a character who is always looking to learn, even in his time away he was upskilling doing different courses and shadowing different teams. I’m sure he has added to his repertoire over his last few months and years. It is exciting now to see what will happen.”
Horan made headlines towards the end of last year when it was reported that he had held trials for the 2019 Mayo squad that included a load of already established inter-county players.
However, O’Connor admits that this was of no surprise to the players that they had to start on a clean slate.
“Yeah, it probably was to the outside and to the public, but anyone that knew him from before would have known that anyway. As soon it was announced that he was going to be the manager the players would have been well aware that there was going to be trials and that they would all be playing.
“It would nearly have been unspoken and accepted anyway that it would be a clean slate. That is just the way it has to be, the way it should be, the way we want it to be. It was no surprise that everybody was due to line out and to be honest June 29 we got knocked out so lads were mad to play, to get the boots on.”