take two

'I don't think James would come back if he didn't think there was potential for us to win an All-Ireland'

Aidan O’Shea is delighted with James Horan’s return to the Mayo helm.

AIDAN O’SHEA IS more than pleased to have James Horan back on board as Mayo senior football manager.

Aidan O'Shea Aidan O'Shea (file pic). Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

After previously being in charge between 2011 and 2014, Horan was re-appointed as manager last Thursday night and handed a four-year term.

He succeeds Stephen Rochford, who departed in late August citing a lack of support from the county board executive after a summer that saw the Westerners exit the All-Ireland SFC after loss to Kildare in the qualifiers.

And three-time All-Star O’Shea is delighted to see him back at the helm.

“There’s a positive reaction to him coming back,” the versatile 28-year-old told The42 at the launch of the Heinz Sports Club today.

“Even publicly, the supporters have been quite keen on him coming back. Just really looking forward to seeing how things go really, to be honest.

“It’s going to be new, it’s going to be different. I think he always kind of mentioned that he’d like to do it again. He’s 47 or 48 years of age, he was young when he took the job on.

“When he left, I always thought that he might come back. I was hoping that my career would still be intact, or somewhat intact anyway, by the time he came back. I’m not surprised that he’s come back, but I maybe didn’t think he’d be back as quick as this.”

O’Shea added, when asked if there was any concern of a second coming not working out:

James Horan with Aidan O'Shea at the end of the game Horan with O'Shea in 2014. Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

“Look, some people say you should never go back and you see that in professional sport or whatever. It’s not something I’m too worried about.

“I know the set-up he instilled the first time round and the reaction and drive he put through the players, the environment that he set up for guys.

“He was there for us to perform, he challenged us. It was a really good set-up. I think if that comes back again (there’ll be no issue) — which I’m sure it will, he’s gone away and done a Masters in coaching I think and is talking about being on the pitch even more this time.

“Look, it’s not going to be the same. We’re safe in the knowledge that he’s not just going to come in and do the same thing as he did before. I’m sure he’s gone away and learned as much as we’ve learned in the intervening years.”

During Horan’s first tenure, he delivered four Connacht titles in-a-row and steered the county to back-to-back All-Ireland final appearances in 2012 and 2013.

Since his second coming was announced, the Ballintubber clubman noted that all involved — himself, the players, the county board — have grown ‘older and wiser’ since his departure in 2014.

RRP 0014 Heinz Sports Club ambassador O'Shea. Robbie Reynolds. Robbie Reynolds.

And O’Shea agrees. After all the hurt and heartbreak through the years, he still thinks that the squad has the capacity to go again and try to reach the Holy Grail.

“I don’t think James would be getting involved if he didn’t think there was potential for us to win an All-Ireland,” O’Shea continued.

“He’s got a four-year term, there probably needs to be a little bit of patience and a little bit of transition built into that, to try and unearth and bring through some of the guys that have been successful with the U21s and U20s over the last few years.

“There’s players there. When James came in the last time there was this kind of thought process that Mayo had lost a lot and we’d be in the doldrums for a number of years. He didn’t see that, he saw a group of players that had huge potential and I’m sure that’s the similar vibe he’s got coming back in now.

“He’s going to pull through the next group of players that are going to be the team for the next six or seven years in Mayo, similar to what happened when he came in the first time round.”

While the Breaffy attacker is pleased with Horan’s return, he also spoke about Rochford’s departure and the disappointment surrounding the manner of his exit.

“When we get knocked out of the championship on the 30 June, to still be in the media the week of the All-Ireland final without being involved is obviously not ideal.

Aidan O'Shea and Stephen Rochford celebrate at the final whistle O'Shea with Stephen Rochford. Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO / INPHO

“Hopefully that’s the end of needless PR for the team when we should be just focusing on football. Now that James has been ratified, we can move forward and start planning.  

“We’re probably a little bit behind than we should be for a team that was knocked out on the 30 June. We need to get our act together pretty quickly and start getting things in place for next year.”

“It’s been different,” O’Shea said of the longer summer than usual.”Very, very different for me. The first couple of weeks were definitely a little bit weird. I struggled with being out of the kind of bubble of inter-county football, training, having a routine and structure.

“After a few weeks you start to appreciate other things in life. It’s been a mixed bag. Obviously you don’t want to go out of the championship early, I struggled with it initially but I’ve definitely enjoyed the last couple of months as well.

“There’s no point sitting and wallowing about a loss. I really enjoyed getting back to the club scene, it’s been brilliant having a consistency with them over a period of time.”

In other news of interest, former Mayo team coach and selector Donie Buckley has been confirmed in Peter Keane’s backroom team down in Kerry.

RRP 0005 Heinz Sports Club ambassadors Stephanie Roche and Aidan O'Shea.

Cahersiveen native Keane’s appointment as manager on a three-year term was rubber-stamped at a county board meeting last night with Buckley announced as a right-hand man.

And O’Shea feels that he’ll be a huge boost to the Kingdom.

“He’s a massive loss to us,” he said. “We’ve had him for six years over three different managers, he was a consistent across all three. He was brilliant.

“He did 99.9% of our training on the pitch with us. He’s a brilliant coach, his knowledge of other teams and tendencies of individual players, their weakness; It’s incredible. He just eats, sleeps and breathes Gaelic football.

“He put his heart and soul into six years with us. I’m happy for him that he gets to go down to Kerry, it’s very strong and he’ll only love that challenge with a serious group of young players coming through there.

“I don’t think he’ll have a bad word said about him from Mayo. Kerry are getting a really good trainer, I expect to see them a little bit more hard edge. You’ll see them defensively stronger next year.”

Barry Solan and Donie Buckley Donie Buckley. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

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