Belfast Telegraph

Cork's remarkable comeback story can inspire Horan to revive Mayo

By Declan Bogue

Should Mayo manager James Horan need someone to talk to over the next few weeks, he could do worse than looking up Billy Morgan.

By the time the Cork county board sought out Morgan for his second term as Cork manager in 1986 – having already performed the role for a few years as player-manager – Kerry had secured 11 out of the previous 12 Munster titles.

The mould required breaking and for the next four years, Kerry didn't get a sniff in Munster as Cork dominated the provincial series.

They also reached four All-Ireland finals.

In 1987, Meath beat them. A year later, Sean Boylan's side asserted their superiority and durability by conquering them after a replay.

By this stage, it will sound remarkably similar to Horan.

In his third year, Morgan's Cork finally secured Sam, beating Mayo in the final. They added another one the following year in the most satisfying way possible, beating Meath after a replay.

Morgan remains the last manager to win two All-Irelands back-to-back in football. Those who have searched the record books in the last few days may need to be reminded that Kerry's wins in 2006 and 2007 came under Jack O'Connor (who answered the charge that he couldn't beat Mickey Harte's Tyrone by saying that he couldn't wait around forever for them to show up) and the understated Pat O'Shea from Dr Crokes.

Undoubtedly, Morgan put in many dark nights of the soul wrestling with his future, asking himself was he the man for the job and would Cork not benefit from another voice.

Backing himself produced dividends in the end. By 1990, he had his players praying that they would meet Meath in another All-Ireland final. You have to wonder if Mayo have that kind of confidence now.

While Horan will take his own time to consider where he goes from here, the scenario facing Dublin manager Jim Gavin is quite different.

Many managers have taken different approaches to retaining an All-Ireland title. Last spring, Donegal's Jim McGuinness took a novel direction by writing off the National League entirely and constantly referring to May 26th, when they would face Tyrone in the first round of Ulster in Ballybofey.

With the four All-Ireland semi-finalists being Division One teams – three of them made the semi-finals – the point could not have been made any more emphatically; the league matters.

Donegal did not discover any players in the league and instead those who rose above their natural ability to claim an All-Ireland, slumped the following spring with a mixture of fatigue and loss of form.

Preparing for Championship next year off-Broadway in Division Two might actually suit them, but the other side of that coin could be that they might find performance levels tailing off while still picking up wins.

Dublin are in different territory. Paul Flynn noted that the talent coming after the jerseys of established team members is frightening. At the other end of the scale, Alan Brogan will be back and re-invigorated.

The sidelining of 2011 captain Bryan Cullen has shown that Gavin is prepared to shake things up. How he and his players deal with the added pressure of being champions will be the single most important factor in 2014.

Belfast Telegraph


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