Michael Solan's withdrawal from the race to become the next Mayo GAA football manager has left the door open for James Horan to return to the hot seat.
I spoke to Solan the day Ballagh' defeated Garrymore in the county quarter final and he was very upbeat about the job then. Whatever happened in the five days after I spoke to Michael Solan was enough for him to withdraw his nomination. Maybe there were issues with his plan, but I understand his back room team wasn't acceptable for a team wanting to compete for top honours in 2019. Reading comments on social media may also have had an influence on his decision. There seemed to be a very opinionated vociferous group demanding James Horan gets the job using the hash-tag #Horanornoone.
The bottom line is, after Solan's withdrawal, James Horan is in a very powerful position and can make the county board bend to his terms, which I'm sure won't be straightforward or come at a cheap price, to say the least. He will demand only the best for his second coming and you can be sure no stone will be left unturned, which can only be a good thing for the betterment of Mayo football.
There is no question the players will not want for anything. James Horan's emotional interview after Westport’s defeat to Breaffy in the quarter final, may also have added to Solan's decision. Horan was passionate about a return and his mature comment about healing previous rifts with the board will have won any of his doubters over. The big question is, will James Horan and the current county board be able to have an amicable working relationship - which is paramount to the success of Mayo football.
After what can only be described as a very turbulent year in Mayo GAA in both men's and ladies, we are hopefully going to get some closure on at least one aspect. The big fanfare surrounding the release of the Mayo Jersey last weekend wasn't without its hiccups or embarrassment either, when it was outed online by social media mogul Niall McGarry, a day before it was to be released to the public, taking away all the excitement of the actual release last Friday.
I can presume that Elverys and the county board were not happy at the picture of McGarry in the jersey a day before it was to be unveiled. After the official release creating a bit of action on social media, with lots of Mayo folk far and wide applauding the new design and a feel good factor developing amongst Mayo folk, came the statement about Michael Solan's withdrawal.
It was one negative news story after another. We thought things couldn't have become any more newsworthy or controversial in the Mayo GAA world, only to find out that two hurling clubs, Ballyvary and Caiseal Gaels, have been omitted from the generous €100k donated by JP McManus that was to be distributed evenly amongst clubs within the county.
In a year that hasn't been very successful on the pitch - apart from the u20's run to the All-Ireland final - we have been dogged by controversy after controversy. The week of the All-Ireland men's final, Mayo are the headline act, the main sports story after the Stephen Rochford scenario. The week of the ladies All-Ireland final, again Mayo LGFA are in the headlines because of a player walkout over issues with manager Peter Leahy. All these scenarios are beyond embarrassing and are not painting Mayo GAA in a good light.
I think it's time somebody became accountable. Far too much media spotlight for all the wrong reasons. The press/media journalists in the country probably wake up every Monday morning and wonder, “what will happen in Mayo this week”. It's time it stopped.
Final spots up for grabs
Ballintubber will have to play beyond themselves to have a chance of dethroning champions Castlebar in the semi final on Saturday. They have been putting up big scores and will have to do so again to have a chance of beating an as well oiled club team as our county has produced.
The other semi final between Ballaghadeereen and Breaffy is very difficult to call. On the back of watching the quarter finals, I fancy Andy Moran and co to make it to Mayo's showpiece. They will know that with Robbie Hennelly's radar-like boot, giving away frees inside 55 metres is not an option.
It promises to be a great day's football with no fewer than 20 current or past Mayo players on show in both games.