Mayo manager James Horan insists Mayo should have won the All-Ireland final against Donegal and believes his side are constantly given less praise than they deserve.
While many people cited Mayo’s demise in the 2-11 to 0-13 loss against Jim McGuinness’s team for poor match-ups - Mayo’s least experienced defender Kevin Keane was left marking a rampant Michael Murphy - Horan puts the loss down to simple errors.
“I’ve heard a lot of discussion about match-ups in the All-Ireland final, but in a way that misses the point,” he said in The Western People. “We had as much possession in that game as we had against Down in the quarter-final but used it poorly at times.
“We had a lot of possession in the first 10 minutes. A lot of ball went into the full-forward line in the opening minutes that we didn’t hold. If we had held that ball, we’d be having a different conversation. There’s a range of things apart from the match-ups that, to me, are more important.”
While Murphy easily outjumped Keane and then held off the Mayo corner-back before slamming home a third minute goal for Donegal, Horan believes the concession was a consequence of the ease of delivery afforded to Karl Lacey.
“I hear a lot about Michael Murphy winning that early ball but if you go back and ask why was that ball kicked in, why did Karl Lacey get the space to deliver such a fine pass?,” Horan continued. WWe had Barry Moran, Aidan O’Shea, Alan Dillon, Jason Doherty out there and go back further than that — where did Donegal win the ball?
“Scores don’t just come from the things that stick in people’s minds, there much more to it than that. We always go back and look at why and where such things happened and that’s the way we improve.
“Before Lacey kicked the ball in, there were guys who could have got tackles in and could have stopped it in the half-back line. There are always moments like that where we can improve, and we will.
“Michael Murphy got a great goal and fair play to him, but we were in a lot more control of the game than that early scoreline indicated and we didn’t do our stuff. We made mistakes and gave Donegal the opportunities.
“That’s where I focus my attention rather than just on obvious match-ups. The reasons behind the construction of the attack were much more important.” Colm McFadden’s second goal on 11 minutes put Donegal 2-1 to 0-0 up in the Croke Park final but Horan was impressed by his side’s fightback and believes his side left the game behind them.
“We eradicated the seven-point deficit fairly quickly and 10 minutes into the second half we had opportunities we didn’t take,” Horan continued. “It was the mistakes we made that ultimately cost us.
“The exciting thing is that we didn’t play like we can, yet should have won the All-Ireland and that gives us huge scope in which to develop. That’s what we’re looking forward to and that’s what we’re working so hard on already to bring out in 2013.
“We had lost the All-Ireland final, but within 10 minutes I knew people would use the experience in the right way. From talking to the players, I knew that an even greater level of determination was building as we spoke.
“We were all disappointed and emotional and it was hard, but we sat down and analysed the game and said ‘This is why we lost and this is what we must do to improve in those areas’. It was very practical and logical and everyone realised that a few little things cost us.
“So we went through that process before we left the dressing room and even later that night in the hotel there was a sense of ‘onwards and upwards’.
“We’re back in action next weekend and we can’t wait to get started. We did okay in 2012, but compared to what this team is capable of, we didn’t perform to 60% of our true potential.
“We got to two national finals last year, but didn’t come anywhere what we are capable of.
“So the challenge for us now is to play to our potential. The team has huge skill levels and we’re looking all the time to improve and drive on. We’re working hard and we know that when we get things right, great things are possible.”
Horan also had a swipe at the national media, including RTE. The former All Star hit out at the national broadcaster before travelling with the team for a holiday in Miami and vowed that his side’s potential would eventually prove Mayo’s doubters wrong. “There was a lot of commentary from some media sources that was factually incorrect and, quite frankly, idiotic stuff,” he said.
“In a two-horse race, if you have the national broadcaster proclaiming about one team and one team only, that’s going to influence officials and various things around the game.
“There should be no place for that type of biased discussion. It was completely unwarranted and incorrect. We’ll eventually be proven right. Did it impact the game? It’s hard to say.”
“Pretty much any big game we play is always about the other team in the media. If you were paranoid, you might think that the representation we get from the national media isn’t fair or reflective, but you’d waste your time if you went down that road.
“It’s pretty much all about how strong the opposition are and how are Mayo going to stop them rather than talking about what we can do, but as time passes, we’re changing minds and changing attitudes”