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Fiery James Horan tears up the script and sets an example

By John Campbell

The Mayo football team, for so long the whipping boys in the All-Ireland championship, are currently doing their talking on the field of play. And they certainly hope to make themselves heard loud and clear when they confront Kerry in Saturday's All-Ireland semi-final replay at the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick.

But away from the action manager James Horan is venting his feelings to such an extent that he could be perhaps unwittingly setting a template for his colleagues.

Not so long ago defeated managers counted to 10, mouthed their controlled regrets and platitudes and then, inwardly seething, exited the championship stage.

It's suddenly all rather different this year. When Armagh boss Paul Grimley took exception to the tenor of the reporting of the pre-match parade skirmish which tarnished his team's meeting with Cavan at the Athletic Grounds, he imposed what amounted to a virtual media ban which lasted until Donegal terminated his team's championship involvement earlier this month.

Only then did Grimley relent, reiterating his reasons for his stance before formally stepping down from his role 48 hours after the match.

And a clearly aggrieved Mickey Harte made his feelings known in no uncertain manner after what he felt was an absence of an appropriate amount of added time when his team lost to Monaghan in the Ulster semi-final.

Normally Harte is a stoic presence on the touchline, impervious it would seem to the more controversial incidents which tend to blight big games.

But, clearly feeling that his team had been victims of an injustice, Harte sought to express his views to referee Eddie Kinsella who added just two minutes of extra-time even though there had been several hold-ups in play including the dispensing of three black cards in the last 11 minutes of the match.

That Tyrone lost the match by a solitary point merely added to Harte's frustration and anger.

Then it was Horan's turn to step into the spotlight for dubious reasons when he described Cork's thinly-disguised verbal grenades in advance of the All-Ireland quarter-final meeting with his side as "disgraceful" and "a new low".

And when he refused to shake the hand of Cork boss Brian Cuthbert after the game, he of course added fuel to what was already a fiercely burning fire.

This week, the fiery Horan has been on the war path again, referencing the decision to stage Saturday's Mayo v Kerry All Ireland semi-final replay at Limerick as "bizarre" before declaring in relation to Lee Keegan's dismissal "if we're giving red cards for that, then the game is going down".

No beating about the bush there and it all serves to pose the question – just what can we expect from all four managers involved in this weekend's top-flight action?

GAA President Liam O'Neill and Director General Paraic Duffy must be squirming uneasily already as they contemplate two games which will be spliced with raw tension, high emotion and rampant physicality.

Perhaps the two people carrying the biggest burden of responsibility in Irish sport this weekend are Cormac Reilly and Joe McQuillan.

Tradition has it that a referee who handles a high-profile game which ends in a draw takes charge of the replay but the National Referees Appointments Committee under the baton of Pat McEnaney has of late veered away from that.

On Saturday Meath man Reilly will take over from his fellow county whistler David Coldrick for Kerry v Mayo round two while Cavan official McQuillan will be the man in the middle for Dublin v Donegal.

Coldrick has of late been regarded as the top referee in the country but he did not have one of his better days at Croke Park last Sunday when some of the Dublin players in particular were allowed to foul repeatedly while Mayo defender Lee Keegan was dismissed for a rather innocuous offence, Coldrick applying the letter rather than the spirit of the law.

Only one thing is certain at this juncture – neither referee this weekend will please all of the people in two matches that look certain to be charged with more voltage than an electric storm.

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