James Horan’s first game as Mayo manager was an FBD game in Castlebar in January 2011. His league managerial debut also took place in MacHale Park against Down a month later. He opened up his championship managerial career in West London on a bright afternoon which almost went down in the history books as a black day for Mayo football. Two further championship games in very bad conditions dictated that he brought his men to Croke Park in July 2011 as Connacht champions but with the tag of serious underdogs to face Cork, the All Ireland champions. That day he made nonsense of Spillane’s ranting about Connacht football’s “Junk Status”, ridiculed Brolly’s assertion that Cork would easily progress and set the tone for some historic Mayo days in Croke Park over the next 3 years. For many that is the day that the Horan era really started. Now the Horan era is surely coming to a close and we face Cork once again. This time Mayo will be installed as favourites and rightfully so. Cork were physically and mentally superior to Sligo in Saturday’s qualifier. In Sky Sports high definition each man looked taller and broader, and even more importantly than this, they had far better ideas when on the ball. Colm O’Neill dominated the game ably assisted by Paul Kerrigan. Sligo had a patch of dominance and took a fine goal in the third quarter but the game was never in doubt. Keeping Kerrigan and O’Neill quiet will no doubt be key to Sunday’s game plan. Cork now have a huge step up in the calibre of their opponents in the space of a week. They started brightly against Kerry but were unable to compete with them as the game progressed. I think the match-ups will favour the Connacht champions and while we, as Mayo supporters, will never get used to going to Croke Park as favourites, the players and management seem to have no problems with it ,judging by our wins over Down and Tyrone. Regardless of our chances of lifting the blessed chalice in September, and regardless of whether he continues in the job, we cannot doubt that James Horan’s tenure has been a great success. Let’s keep enjoying it and hope fervently that Sunday’s game will bring him one step closer to immortality.
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Mayo For Sam 14!!!