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Dublin: 9°C Wednesday 12 May 2021

'There was usually a huge energy about Galway football but you don’t sense that anymore'

Former Mayo manager James Horan feels that his county will be too strong for the Tribesmen on Saturday.

 'If Mayo perform like they can, I think they'll be much too strong for Galway.'
'If Mayo perform like they can, I think they'll be much too strong for Galway.'
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

MAYO AND GALWAY’S provincial clash is undoubtedly a highly anticipated game year-in, year-out.

You just have to look at last year’s Connacht semi-final to get a sense of the excitement that rival clashes like this bring.

However, many have said Galway are a team that have gone backwards over the past few years.

Former Mayo manager and Sky Sports pundit James Horan shares that sentiment.

“If you talk to people in Galway, there was usually a huge energy about their football and where they were going and what the promise was, but you don’t sense that anymore” Horan told The42. 

“You almost sense that the people in Galway think that if they get out of Castlebar with under a ten-point beating, six-point beating, that they’ll be happy enough, which is not what Galway used to be.

“I know Kevin Walsh mentioned that they’ve been closing the gap but I’d be the opposite.”

“Back in my day, playing against Galway it was always flipping tough. They don’t seem to have progressed. To me, it’s [the fixture] definitely lost a bit of that competitivness.”

The four-time Connacht championship-winning manager is confident that Mayo will have no difficulties in progressing to this year’s provincial final.

“I think they’re stronger this year with the addition of a number of players. If Mayo perform like they can, I think they’ll be much too strong for Galway.

“I think one of the key things on Saturday night is that you’re definitely going to see a different formation from Mayo. I think that’s been clearly evident throughout the league.

“We saw various attempts at it, and then when you’ve a 10 week window after the league and you’ve a training camp in England where you can train twice a day, you really get to bed down what you want to do for the summer, and how you want to approach things.

“They will have utilised their time very very well. Mayo are going to be more defensively-based than what they were, for sure.”

Tomas Flynn and Fiontan O Curraoin with Seamus O'Shea and Tom Parsons Mayo came out on top to win their fifth consecutive Connact title last year. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Horan admits that he was very surprised at the Galway starting selection, especially at the number of new players included.

“Going in against experience like Mayo at home with two new debutants in your full-back line, that will be an area that Mayo will look to target for sure.

“They’re good young players. You wouldn’t be as concerned further out the field, it’s a good opportunity for them but that full-back line is going to be under pressure there’s no question about it.”

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Going forward, Horan feels that the younger players coming into Stephen Rochford’s panel – including key figures from the U21 All-Ireland winning team – is a huge positive.

“These are all young, progressive, very dynamic players with proven character. You’ve five or six new guys that appear to be very ready to jump into senior championship football. When you add that to the experience that’s there, things look very good.”

Along with this, another core element to Mayo’s success this year he feels is shot selection.

“I think Mayo always get enough possession. If you look at the stats they’ll always have enough, they’re so strong around the middle.

“I’d say that shot selection for me is probably a key one [element]. Play it until it’s on no matter what, until it gets into the scoring zone where you get your eight from 10 shots, not taking them from an area where you get your two from 10 shots.”

Rory O'Carroll Aidan O'Shea and Rory O'Carroll in action in last year's All-Ireland semi-final. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Looking ahead to later in the summer, Horan feels that Dublin can be knocked off their perch, having lost players like Jack McCaffery and Rory O’Carroll.

As a result, he feels there’s an opportunity there for Mayo.

“They [Dublin] are pushing the frontiers with regards movement and understanding of attacking football. I don’t think there’s any question about that.

“They’ve definitely lost a bit on the field, and I would say experience as well. I think they’ll get away with that until later in the year but when the real pressure comes on, those small things will make a difference.

“There’s people looking at how you can get at Dublin and bits and pieces. Cian O’Sullivan is a key link. The role he played last year, particular (back) was very, very good. Is there something you can do there, is there some way you can play and I’m sure a lot of people are looking at it.”

James Horan is a pundit for Sky Sports who carry exclusive coverage of the Connacht Senior Football Championship meeting of Galway and Mayo this Saturday, on Sky Sports 3. To celebrate the return of the Championship season, Sky customers can upgrade today and enjoy half price Sky Sports for 6 months by simply going to channel 402 and pressing the red button or visit

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