In the build up to Mayo's Connacht semi-final showdown against Roscommon next Sunday, Mayo manager James Horan has said that he doesn't mind Mayo being grouped in as potential All Ireland winners as that's where his team want to be. When asked did it bother him at last weeks pre-game press conference the Mayo manager said “Not at all, we're an ambitious team, we're looking to be as good as we possibly can and we feel that we have a lot of ability and that's OK, we'll take that. We're making progress and we're going the right way. So we're just going to June 16 and see can we take the next step.”
However he did repeat his warning to supporters not to be getting to carried away just yet. When asked about the warning to supporters he issued last week as to why he felt that way, he said that. “I suppose the couple of hundred people who have said to me it's great to have Cillian and Micky Conroy back for August. We're not in a Connacht final, we're in a Connacht semi-final, never mind an All Ireland quarter-final. That's the game that we have to play, that dictates then what happens next. Any of that kind of talk is just daft, it's natural, but it's daft in terms of our preparation, but thankfully we have a lot of smart guys that just can see through that and are really focused on each session we have.”
As for his current injury problems, Horan hopes to have an almost full deck to pick from for Sunday apart from the long term injury he outlined the current situation saying. “All our injuries are improving. Barry Moran is close to being back, he's doing running as is Jason Doherty. Cathal Freeman and Mickey Conroy are back on the field, but obviously no contact because of shoulder injuries and Cillian has started his rehab.”
Last weeks challenge game against Cavan was a worthwhile exercise to play a game against a defensively minded side according to the Ballintubber man. “The Cavan match was interesting, they're a very defensively set up team so it was a challenge for us to get the hang of that for a while, which we did. From that point of view it was good and we got to give a few guys a run out, so it was good.” It was also a chance for him to give a run out to a number of panel members and give them a chance to impress. “There are the guys who are coming back from injuries and some of the guys on the panel who have started playing well. We've Shane McHale, Michael Walsh, Evan Regan and James Burke is flying, so there is real competition there.” Despite Andy Moran playing most of the game and bagging himself two goal Horan did add that the Mayo captain still has a bit of work to do yet in his comeback from his cruciate ligament injury. “It's good for Andy to get back, he's still a bit off the pace and has a bit of work to do. He's making progress at an alarming rate, so that's another bonus.”
As for Sunday's opponents, Horan is expecting a tough challenge from Roscommon. “We'd be familiar with Roscommon especially how the play and set up under John Evans. We played them earlier in the year in Ballyhaunis it ended in a draw that was a struggle for us. In a lot of their games in division three, they conceded very low scores, they are a hard team to score against and hard team to play against. With John Evans there, they'll have a lot of passion and it's going to be a challenge.” But he has plenty of faith in his sides abilities to overcome the challenge. “I think we're a team with a lot of ability and ambition and we prepare that way and things came together for us (against Galway ), but that was then and this is now. So that's the platform for us to build on and I'm sure Roscommon will have watched that game closely and I'm sure will have a lot of plans in place as a result of that so we need to make sure that we springboard off the Galway match and use that to keep progressing.”
Progression from game to game and year to year has been a major theme of Horan's tenure in charge of Mayo so far and that hasn't changed this year. “The Galway game was a start it was a good kick off to our championship, but that's all it was, was a start and you have to build on that. If you want to be successful you have to build on every single training session, every single game that you play and that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to be better in certain areas than we were against Galway and see where that takes us.” We'll see the next bit of progress of this side, next Sunday when the game throws in at 4pm in McHale Park.