Horan happy with win, but lots to work on

GAA: Connacht Senior Football Championship

Mayo displaced the challenge of Sligo with ease last Saturday on the road - and with Leitrim now coming up in the Connacht Senior Football Championship semi-final next weekend, the focus of Mayo manger James Horan has been firmly fixed on that game.

Speaking after the win over Sligo, Horan was happy with how his side performed, as he said:"We got a good good start in the first half, got a couple of goals from good turnovers and I think it killed maybe their enthusiasm a bit; so a good first half, good scoring and a steadier second half maybe. We got through it and learned a few things, so happy with that."

Having built up a big lead by the half-time break, there was still plenty to learn from the second half where they saw off the Sligo challenge with relative ease, he added: "There are always things you are trying to do and to improve on and tweak things a little bit, so we tried a few of those today. Some of them worked, some didn't.

"Probably held on to the ball a little bit too long on some attacks and a little bit short on others, when we should have held on to it. It is all that kind of stuff we are trying to work out, but overall, to get through it and have a couple of debuts and a couple of guys back playing good football, I am happy with that."

Knockmore's Darren McHale put in an excellent showing on his first championship start, bagging 1-5 for Mayo and that didn't surprise Horan at all, who said: "Darren is bringing his form from club through, he is back from injury now. He gets it the way he plays it, he's a very elusive type of player and gets on a lot of ball and is very accurate, so I am delighted for him today."

Another man who had to step up was Ryan O'Donoghue, who took over the free-taking duties from the injured Cillian O'Connor – and he did that with relative ease and it was good for him to get that game under his belt, according to the Mayo manager. "It was a nice start, Ryan is a very good free-taker, he has been practicing hard, it's a good day for him."

Mayo were in the unfortunate position of having only 25 players in their match day squad for the game rather than the allowed 26, due to a late injury to Bryan Walsh in training, and that is something that needs to be looked at Horan believes.

"This is my pet (peeve ); you have to put the 26 in on Thursday morning and then you have training and guys pick up a knock and you are down players on the 26; so we had only 25 here today. Bryan just went over on his ankle a bit, but hopefully he'll be fine for Tuesday for training. There's a lot of rules around here as ye know, getting on and off and on to pitches, it can be confusing at times."

While Walsh's injury was another headache for Mayo to deal with, the return to action for the first time this year of Padraig O'Hora was very welcome. "He got a bad bang a few weeks ago, so he was out for a few weeks, but as you can see, he's back in full health and a really strong option for us."

Kevin McLoughlin marked an historic milestone last weekend playing his 150th championship and league game for Mayo and it was a brilliant achievement for a player who Horan thinks is right at the top of his game.

"Yah 150 (games ) and they were slagging him about the few (shots ) he missed there, because he very rarely misses, but he is playing brilliant football, possibly the best football of his career so we are delighted for him, he's very fresh and he's got a lot more left."

As for what they will be working on in the lead-up to the Leitrim game, there are learnings to be taken from every game and Horan said he saw plenty out there still to be worked on. "We've stuff we know we need to improve on and we are working hard at it, there are some improvements in it today, but we need to keep working harder and some of the Sligo players today got a lot of time on the ball at certain times; we need to put more pressure on in certain occasions, but we are happy to be through and a couple of weeks to work on a few things and we'll be ready for Castlebar and Leitrim."


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