As he sets out on his second championship in charge of Mayo, Horan was not inclined to downgrade the importance of winning a provincial title but said he was wiling to look at any proposals which would make the championship better.
“A Champions League type structure might be worth having a look at and I would certainly be willing to listen to any proposal that would benefit the game and other counties,” he said.
A number of counties have indicated they would be interested in restructuring the championship and making it a more open competition, with some of the provincial championships failing to have the allure it once held, the dominance of Cork and Kerry in Munster in particular leading to teams using the backdoor by choice while the Connaught championship already has a familiar look to it with Mayo odds-on to retain their title.
But the provincial brand has been strong for an organisaiton slow to change and it is unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future.
He added it would need careful looking at as it will not be easy to please all sides with Ulster in particular having very strong views in support of retaining the provincial system.
“I would certainly be more than willing to look at any proposals being put forward,” Horan said.
Horan begins his second year in charge of Mayo defending a Connaught title won last year when they beat Roscommon in the final following a first round scare in London where they needed extra-time to qualify for a semi-final meeting with Galway.
Galway have already exited the championship following a shock result against Sligo but Horan, pragmatic as ever, is taking it one step at a time and is fully focussed on the challenge of Leitrim.
Mayo’s preparation for Sunday’s clash have been low key with the team playing just two challenge games since losing the national league final to Cork in April.
“We played Westmeath and Monaghan and found them to be useful workouts ahead of this game,” he said.
“The opening game is always difficult, especially when the opposition have a game under their belt, but we are focussing on what we have to do and things are going very well in training, with the injury worries easing.”
Despite Mayo being 1/20 with the bookies for this semi-final, Horan dismisses any notion that Mayo are already looking to a final meeting with Sligo, pointing to the near miss in Carrick-on Shannon when the sides last met in 2006 when Mayo just squeezed home (1-10 to 1-9).
“Look, any championship match is always dodgy. Leitrim may be operating out of division four but no more than ourselves, they found it difficult to come through against London so the championship is really the tester. Each game is different and they will be coming to Castlebar looking for a win.”
Mayo will be playing to their own strengths but they do open their campaign with a number of questions marks following some deficiencies which were exposed against Cork in the league final.
“We looked back on the league games and we have been working on the problems that arose in those game.
“Our ball retention was poor at times and our passing also needed working on and we have been trying to improve on these areas.
The training is going well and we are going into the championship after a long rest and in a very positive frame of mind and I am very hopeful that we can do well this year.”
Horan will sit down with his selectors to pick the team to be named to-night (Tuesday) and he does have a number of options, but Aiden O’Shea is unlikely to be one of them as he continues to overcome an injury problem.
“Aiden is coming on well and is an option but we have a good few options at midfield and other areas,” said the manager.
Seamus O’Shea is likely to come into the picture with Barry Moran at midfield
while Cillian O’Connor, Alan Dillon, Andy Moran, Kevin McLoughlin, Pat Harte and Jason Doherty are expected to form the Mayo attack.
At the back Westport pair of Kevin Keane and Lee Keegan look set to start along with Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins, Donal Vaughan and Colm Boyle although the good club form of Richie Feeney could see the Mitchels man introduced during the game if not from the start. David Clarke looks set to retain the number one shirt.
The senior preview and team interviews are on page 8B, with the preview of the minor semi-final meeting between Mayo and Sligo on page 19B.