Mayo focused on the challenge ahead

Ready for the red hand challenge: Mayo manager James Horan is  focused and ready for Mayo’s All Ireland semi-final next week against Tyrone. Photo: Sportsfile.

Ready for the red hand challenge: Mayo manager James Horan is focused and ready for Mayo’s All Ireland semi-final next week against Tyrone. Photo: Sportsfile.

As of Wednesday night, there are no new major injury concerns for Mayo according to James Horan. The Mayo manager met the assembled local and national press corps in Breaffy House and when quizzed on the injury front the Ballintubber man said that, “I don’t think there’s anything new since I talked to you last. Some of the guys who were out injured are making good progress.” The two main injury concerns coming out of the last two games, Michael Conroy and Tom Cunniffe, were coming along well according to Horan on Wednesday night. “Mickey [Conroy] trained last night and played very well so he’s back up and running, so we’re delighted with that.” On Cunniffe, who twinged a hamstring, the Mayo boss said: “He’s making good progress, the medical team are working very hard with him. He’s not back training yet, but he’s very close to it. Some of these are seven to 10 day ones and you’ve to see how they pan out.”

While putting a big score up on the defending All Ireland champions might look on paper as a near perfect performance, there is still plenty of room for improvement, Horan believes. “Huge room for improvement, firstly we played for about 55 minutes. To be successful the further you go, you need to stretch that out to 70 to 72 minutes. It’s the worst we’ve been in regard to incomplete hand passes in the year. We had 18 incomplete handpasses, which is way to much. Our turnovers up front were significantly lower than our average for the year to date, in some of those areas we know we need to improve on. On the flip side, some of the things that we did in the quarter-final were excellent. Our scoring and our return from play, the movement and angles of running, they were great to watch and a joy to behold. While we did a lot of things very, very, well there are still areas we need to improve on.”

Discipline creates goal chances

Mayo’s glut of goals in this year’s championship has been one of the key reasons for their big wins in their four games so far, the most pleasing thing for Horan is how his side worked to create those goals. “The one [thing] that is most important is that a huge percentage of our goals have come from turnovers from our forwards. If you think of a couple against Galway, even the last day the first goal, Cillian’s very disciplined tackling, and we won the turnover and Kevin [McLoughlin] slipped it in to him. That’s a very encouraging trend on the type of goals we’ve scored.”

When it was posed to him that there is talk around the county about an All Ireland final already and if it would affect his players, Horan was adamant that it does not effect the players at all. “No, no. The approach we’ve taken for the last three years is that we take it one game at a time. That’s exactly what we do, we play each game, we prepare as well as we can for it and we go out and play as well as we can for that 70 minutes. That’s exactly what we do and look to improve in every game we play. In the Donegal game in the quarter final we played well for 50-55 minutes and we’ll look to improve on that again for the semi-final. It doesn’t really affect the team. I can genuinely say that. We’re focused on what we’re doing. We’re ambitious guys and looking to be as good as we can.”

Favourites tag does not bother Mayo

Going into the game as favourites against a team like Tyrone who have built up a huge championship pedigree over the past decade is not something that will faze Mayo he believes. “We’ve been favourites in every game we’ve played this year, genuinely it hasn’t come into the equation for us, you can ask any of the guys. We are where we wanted to be and have started to play the football we know we are capable of and we’re just really looking forward to having another crack on August 25 and seeing can we go one better.”

Mayo are in the unique position of having a number of players who can play in a number of positions Horan said, and he did not rule out trying something like playing Keith Higgins in the half-forward line again, as they did at the start of the quarter-final. “We see ourselves as a very attacking orientated team that has a great flow to how we play. We tried Lee Keegan in numerous games at wing forward in the league, we played Cathal Carolan at wing back, we swapped him and Lee around, Tom Cunniffe has played in numerous positions. We’re very lucky that we have a very versatile team that can play pretty much in a number of different positions. I think we’re probably unique in that regards, that’s something that’s of benefit to us and we’ll use it as we see fit.”

It is very much a case of four games won and two more hopefully to go in the Mayo camp and with the focus firmly on Sunday week and nothing else at all.

Public ticket sales

For members of the public who want to get tickets for the game and have not got them through their clubs or as Cáirde Mhaigheo members, tickets will be available from the County Board offices in McHale Park, which will be open from 9.30am to 6pm from Monday next, August 19 to Friday August 23, and on Saturday August 24 from 10am to 12 noon.

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