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'One thing about this Mayo group in the last number of years is that they’ve moved on pretty quickly'

Former Mayo manager James Horan is confident that Mayo will bounce back from a disappointing end to their All-Ireland championship campaign.

JAMES HORAN SUSPECTS that Mayo’s early championship could be a blessing in disguise for the team following a number of intense All-Ireland championship campaigns.

Sky Sports GAA Roadshow at Kilmacud Crokes GAA Sky Sports analyst James Horan speaking at the Sky Sports GAA Football Roadshow at Kilmacud Crokes last week. Source: Piaras Ó Mídheach/SPORTSFILE

Mayo’s shock defeat to Kildare at the end of June was the culmination of a highly publicised stand-off between the Lilywhites and the GAA over the right to host the All-Ireland qualifier in Newbridge.

While the result brought joy to the home crowd and was possibly perceived as Kildare’s just reward in the fight for justice, it put Mayo out of contention for the Sam Maguire after featuring in the last two consecutive All-Ireland deciders.

On the surface, Stephen Rochford’s squad seem to be moving further away from their target, but former Mayo boss Horan thinks that the break will give them the opportunity to rebuild.

“To have an enforced break — you can make use of that,” he said at a Sky Sports event.

“You can absolutely make use of that. There’s a lot of players that play through injuries, they’re minding injuries throughout the season, and then they’re trying to rehab it before the start of next season.

“So I’m sure there’s Mayo players with knocks and bangs and bits and pieces that can use the time as well to recuperate fully, so there’s all those benefits. That group, a lot of them will be back. They’ll enjoy their club football, and take holidays with their girlfriends and partners, I’m sure families as well.

“That’s very important that there’s that integration of everything. So I think the time off will balance that, and bring that back to a strong level again.”

Mayo have become accustomed to heartache over the last number of decades.

Their ongoing quest for another All-Ireland title is about to enter its 68th year as we head for 2019, and there have been several moments of despair throughout the intervening years.

Horan experienced disappointment with the group when he was at the helm with Mayo, bringing them to the 2012 and 2013 All-Ireland finals. He was also on the sideline when Kerry edged them out in an epic All-Ireland semi-final replay in 2014.

But while he has witnessed their pain, he has also discovered the depths of their resilience.

One thing about this Mayo group in the last number of years is that they’ve moved on pretty quickly. It’s a game of football, yeah there’s things they need to learn and things they need to improve on that they’ll take from it, but they’ll move on.

“Diarmuid O’Connor and these guys didn’t take long to get to the States [O’Connor and Conor Loftus have both joined Chicago side McBrides]. Cillian [O'Connor] was in, I think he was in Russia [World Cup] for the England penalty win. You know, so life just takes over. You move on.

“It’s probably now that the management is sitting down and looking at what they do, or what they can do, so there’s that. I think they’ve all moved on, there’s a new story in town in Mayo [the Mayo ladies] to fill the columns.”

Mayo are no stranger to taking the scenic route to All-Ireland finals, having battled through the qualifiers in the past.

They needed extra-time to get past Derry and Cork last year and Mayo’s ability to come away with wins in tight contests has been absorbing to watch at all times.

But this particular campaign pushed them beyond their limits. They lost regular starters Séamus O’Shea and Tom Parsons to injury, and after escaping defeat so many times in the past, their luck was bound to run out at some stage.

Tom Parsons attends the game Tom Parsons. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

The Mayo camp will now enter a period of reflection before they can contemplate the 2019 season, while veteran midfielder Barry Moran has announced his retirement from inter-county football.

“If you listen to the narrative earlier in the year,” Horan added. “The Connacht final was coming out of Stephen Rochford’s mouth quite a bit. You know, winning Connacht and that was an avenue in, which absolutely makes sense, because you’re straight into the Super 8s then.

So when that didn’t happen, I think a bit of air was let out of the balloon, a little bit. When you build up something and you don’t get it, I just think they were on the ropes a little bit against Tipperary.

“James Durcan’s goal kick-started them again. Then when they were in the real fight against Kildare, in the last five minutes, Kildare were getting stronger and Mayo were, not out of gas, but just didn’t have that energy that you need.

“I just think it was a long campaign. That mixed with having to go on the road again, it was just tough on them, you know.”

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