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Who are the contenders to fill the Mayo hotseat after James Horan's departure?

The Mayo boss departed yesterday after a four-year term.

Collage Maker-28-Jun-2022-05.22-PM Who will the Mayo hotseat?

THE CONFIRMATION ARRIVED yesterday afternoon, a figure synonymous with Mayo football for over a decade having decided to move on.

James Horan’s departure after a four-year term, the same spell of service that he had filled between 2011 and 2014, had helped transform Mayo’s fortunes. Six Connacht title wins, four All-Ireland final appearances, a National League triumph in 2019 and participation in an array of epic games, all occurred under his watch.

But with Horan vacating the hotseat, who are the contenders to come in to replace him?

james-horan-and-lee-keegan-after-the-game Lee Keegan and James Horan after the game. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Ray Dempsey

Dempsey was involved at the coalface as a player with Mayo, featuring in the 1989 and 1996 All-Ireland final losses. He took over the Mayo minors, working with the likes of Aidan O’Shea and Cillian O’Connor, as they reached the All-Ireland final stage in 2008 and 2009, losing out to Tyrone and Armagh respectively.

More recently Dempsey has taken Knockmore to back-to-back Mayo county senior final successes. an impressive feat after they had been waiting since 1997 to lift the Paddy Moclair Cup.

Maurice Sheridan

Another player with All-Ireland senior final experience, lining out for Mayo in the 1996 and 1997 deciders. Sheridan won the All-Ireland club title with Salthill-Knocknacarra in 2006, enjoying a notable success as manager with another Galway outfit earlier this year, steering NUIG to the Sigerson Cup crown, a team that included current Galway lynchpins Sean Kelly and Matthew Tierney. 

He has been Mayo U20 boss for the past two seasons, they have contested Connacht finals but were defeated by Roscommon and Sligo respectively.

Mike Solan

This year Solan has been working with the Leitrim setup alongside Andy Moran, the pair jointly managed their native Ballaghadereen last year. Prior to that Solan guided the Mayo U21s to All-Ireland glory in 2016 and the Mayo U20 team to an All-Ireland final appearance in 2018. He had Mattie Ruane, Stephen Coen, Fergal Boland, Conor Loftus, Diarmuid O’Connor, Michael Plunkett and James Carr in that 2016 setup, while Jordan Flynn, Ryan O’Donoghue and Tommy Conroy were in the ranks of that 2018 team.

andy-moran Andy Moran. Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

Andy Moran

Could Moran himself take the top job in May0? One of the county’s most celebrated football figures, Moran retired in 2019 after a splendid playing career. He won eight Connacht medals and one National League medal in his playing career, while Moran was crowned Footballer of the Year in 2017, the same year of his second All-Star win. This year has been his first major managerial role as he took charge of Leitrim, their season ending with a penalty shootout loss to Sligo in the Tailteann Cup quiarter-final.

Kevin McStay

McStay also has an All-Ireland final outing in the memory bank as a player from 1989, while he won an All-Star in 1985. A well-respected pundit with RTÉ, he enjoyed managerial success with St Brigid’s as they made a memorable breakthrough to land the All-Ireland club championship on St Patrick’s Day 2013.

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Later McStay took over the Roscommon team, the highlight of his three-year reign was the 2017 Connacht final win. He was in the frame for the Mayo job in late 2014 to succeed Horan but was left disappointed as the pair of Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly were entrusted with the role.

malachy-orourke Malachy O'Rourke. Source: Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

An outside voice…

The contenders above are all local, natives who have enjoyed football careers interwined with the fortunes of Mayo teams. High-profile outside candidates may enter the frame but it’s always debatable how realistic some of those suggestions are. Jim McGuinness and Malachy O’Rourke  are managers of renown following their exploits with Ulster counties. Stephen Rochford previously was at the helm but has been involved coaching Donegal for the last few years. Kevin O’Brien enjoyed a stunning run of success at club level with Corofin in Galway. 

The sense remains that the contenders within the county may be the leading ones at this stage.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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