Horan hatching plan to help Mayo have final say
Immediately after they blew the myth of the unbeatable Donegal team apart, Mayo were installed as favourites for Sam Maguire.
Never mind that Kerry were still in the running without an All-Ireland title since 2009; which is the beginnings of a famine for that crowd.
Or Dublin, last winners in 2011 and who are teeming with young talent such as Jack McCaffrey, while they still yet have Bernard Brogan to produce a signature performance for them.
And to even get to tackle either of those two, they have to get through Tyrone, with their by-now ingrained self-confidence stemming from the three All-Irelands of the last decade and the reported promise that Mickey Harte made to his players that they would win three of the next five All-Ireland titles.
Earlier this week, Tyrone were priced at 3/1 for this semi-final. An indication that the turf accountants are satisfied that Mayo have found a means of getting past Ulster-style opposition and Tyrone are similar to Donegal?
“Similar but different, I think it’s fair to say,” is the assessment of Mayo manager James Horan.
“Tyrone press you higher up the pitch. They compress quite well but they attack quite well. They try and set the tempo.
“They are very effective what they do, a very experienced, seasoned team with a very experienced, seasoned manager.”
What Mayo will be nervous about is Tyrone's ability to grind out wins under the most overbearing pressure.
In the league meeting between these two sides, only the second game of the programme during mid-February in Castlebar, the westerners owned the ball but an injury-time penalty converted by Stephen O'Neill was enough to take the league points north.
“That game was a bizarre game for us and of course it’s something we’ll go back and have a look at. I know people said it was a controversial penalty at the end but that’s irrelevant; we were four points down dominating a game possession-wise.”
In the lead-in to the quarter-final Horan skilfully stayed out of some of the most outlandish and puzzling sledging that emanated from the Donegal camp.
Tyrone have not gone down that route themselves but last week took measures in their own way, issuing journalists at the press night with a sheet containing statistics concerning fouls committed in their games this season.
It suggests they are tightening the circle and fostering a siege mentality, something noted by Horan when he said: “I'm sure Mickey Harte will use any means at his disposal to make sure his team are properly prepared and motivated for the game.
“That team has had a lot of tough times and a lot of tough games down through the years so maybe it is something that will unify them.”
He added, “We’ll know what to expect from Tyrone, that’s for sure. They are very effective at what they do and how they play.
“They come out in a wave together with the ball and we’ll maybe have to make some adjustments to our game.
“Ultimately, the game on August 25 is about how we play, how we set up and us being as good as we can be, and seeing where that takes us.”
It has taken them as far as the semi-final. Now for the real stuff.
Belfast Telegraph Digital