Horan sticking with his beliefs ahead of Rossie's visit

GAA: Connacht Senior Football Championship

Focused on improvement: James Horan has been focused on making improvements to Mayo's play. Photo: Sportsfile

Focused on improvement: James Horan has been focused on making improvements to Mayo's play. Photo: Sportsfile

"The three games we won put us in a strong position, we were trying to change the fundamentals of how we played and we were going to stick with that regardless and we did," James Horan said last week when asked about the the middle eight portion of Mayo's league campaign that saw them have successive losses against Dublin and Galway.

The Ballintubber man was in relaxed mood in Lough Lannagh Holiday Village near where Mayo's proposed new centre of excellence will be constructed, as he took questions from the local press ahead of tomorrow evening's clash with Roscommon. Horan has been here before, many times before and the overall philosophy has never changed, it is all about learning, improving and progressing.

The week that Mayo had in New York after their championship opener was another example of this where they got to learn about what they needed to improve on on the field and learn about each other off it, he said. "On the Monday we got a chance to spend a lot of time together, walk through things and go over things and then do it on the field - it was great to get those couple of days. We really learnt a lot and it was a benefit as a unit - we have a lot of new guys in to hear their stories and what makes them tick as well.

"We did other things, like we had a training session with the kids from Rocklands GAA out there, so a lot of those things were very good and very important for us to do.

"Our sessions on a Tuesday or Friday, every minute counts in those with lads coming from Dublin or wherever, so it was great to have a little bit of extra time around to chill out and move the salt cellars around and see if you go there and I go there, how will it work and all that kind of stuff is hugely important for teams to learn from - so we had a hugely good couple of days."

While the victory over New York was big on the scoreboard, as was expected - there was still lots to take from that outing and to work on, he explained, saying: "The New York game we got a lot of things right from a structural point of view, I thought we started well - that was good, but I think we started to give the ball away a bit cheaply at times and lost our focus a bit, started taking shots from the wrong locations and built up a big wide count; they are always areas you need to keep working on and driving those down as much as you can. We are looking at all those things, but hopefully the few days will have worked them out."

Going into the championship as league champions has marked Mayo out as serious title contenders again in many minds - where in Horan's playing days the league and championship were two very different beasts, that has changed in the past decade or so he believes, saying: "You look at the history of league winners over the last decade and compare how that correlated with their championship performances, there is a strong correlation in that.

"I think also with the condition of the quality of pitches, the science behind the sport it has changed - it once was, preparation was run hard during the league and prepare for championship, but that philosophy is gone with sports science you can keep bodies maintained or better, fitter or going at a higher tempo for longer or easier if needs be.

"That has all contributed to having faster and higher quality league games - they are not on the same ground as summer still, even in the last two weeks you see the ball is moving a lot faster, the bounce is higher and all that stuff, there is always going to be differences. But I think they are very similar now with the tail end of the league into the early rounds of the championship, it is your springboard into it."

Going back to the few weeks during the league when it looked like Mayo had hit a serious road bump, Horan says he wasn't overly concerned - with the Dublin game being the only one that he really felt was a disappointment, saying: "The only real blip for me really was the Dublin game, we were very, very poor that day - against Galway to me we should have won the game, but we just went nuts for the last five minutes and gave away some crazy frees.

"I don't think Galway would have scored against that breeze, but we gave them some frees to win the game which was very unlike us and I think we learned an awful lot from that from a discipline point of view, our record has been excellent since.

"We did an awful lot right in that game - to come from being down to dominating the game and should have won it, the result is only one aspect of what you are looking for from any game, but the Dublin was poor, there wasn't any really panic set in, it was just the sheer disappointment of how we were so bad and trying to figure that out.

"We stuck at a lot of what we were doing and we were going to because that's where we felt we needed to be as a team and work on certain things and we stuck on that and continue to work on them, so the league was interesting and beneficial for us a group."

Sticking to those beliefs and fundamentals will hopefully see Mayo book a Connacht final place tomorrow evening once the full time whistle is blown.

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