Horan says Mayo 2013 planning began in Croke dressing-room

James Horan says Mayo's planning for this year's Championship campaign began in their Croke Park dressing-room immediately after last year's All-Ireland Final defeat by Donegal.

"We talked about it straight after the game and went through what we needed to do better," says the Mayo manager.

"We really started preparing for this year then."

Others managers would have opted to let matters sit in those moments amid players' crushing disappointment.

But that is not Horan's managerial style.

The Mayo boss was convinced his players had not performed to their optimum and he believed a straightforward and immediately elucidation of where it had gone wrong was going to serve the squad's development better than parking the issue for days or indeed weeks.

"Donegal were super All-Ireland champions and had a very hard championship run and were very, very worthy winners but from our side of things, we didn't play like we can.

"While we were defeated, we certainly took a huge amount from it and immediately looked to implement that into the 2013 programme which is what we have done."

That lessons have been learned was evident from Mayo's stunning quarter-final hammering of the All-Ireland champions three weeks ago.

This time it was the turn of the Connacht champions to get the two-goal start and a crumbling Donegal wilted in astonishing fashion after the early onslaught.

In the run-up to Sunday's semi-final against a wily Tyrone outfit, there have been suggestions that Mayo may have peaked too early in the campaign and that even if they are able to negotiate the Red Hands, they will be unable to maintain that pitch until the fourth Sunday in September.

However, Horan insists that he doesn't subscribe to such theories.

"So far so good. The quarter-final was our best performance to date which is what you are looking for in terms of continuous progression the later the season gets."

Horan also shakes his head to the claim that he should be concerned that his team have yet to face a "tight dogfight" this summer as they have racked up big wins in all their games.

"I go back to the league campaign we had this year. We were in relegation trouble from game three and the remaining four games were dogfights.

"In the last game down in Cork we won by a point when we needed to win to stay up.

"They were real pressure games and real tight battles and I feel that really stood to us as we prepared for the championship.

"Once the first round of the championship came, I felt we used the steel that the league gave us.

"As regards the way things are at the moment I'm not worried about that all all. We have had our fair share of tough games over the last number of years that have helped forge us together as a team."

Horan appears to be anticipating another of those tough battles against Mickey Harte's Red Hands this weekend.

"We are playing one of the most effective and battle-hardened teams in the country who have a smattering of All-Ireland medals in their back-pockets so that is a monumental challenge for us."

As for the suggestion that Mayo's favouritism will mean added pressure for his team, Horan gently bats that one away.

"We have been favourites in every (championship) game this year - overwhelming favourites in fact - and that hasn't affected us in any way."

In relation to the furore over Sean Cavanagh's tackle on Conor McManus and Tyrone's supposed "cynical" tackling, Horan can identify with the controversy to a degree after his players were accused of similar tactics by RTE pundit Joe Brolly in the run-up to last year's All-Ireland Final.

"I think too much has been made of it. It is something that needs to be looked at but there has been a huge amount of talk over the last few years and we ourselves have struggled with it.

"The black card is coming in next year and while I'm not sure if it is the solution, I definitely think it is a step in the right direction.

"The reality is that cynical fouling was 50 times worse 20 years ago. The game nowadays is analysed so much and covered by numerous TV cameras.

"You go back at look at some of those (old) games. The sledging or off-the-ball stuff was significantly worse than it is now. It's just that it is exposed a lot more now."

Horan is hoping that the post-match talk on Sunday evening will focus on another free-flowing display of attacking football by his charges and the Mayo boss appears confident.

"I've always thought the Mayo team was good enough to win an All-Ireland since before I was involved.

"I believe we will be very competitive (on Sunday) and if we play to the full of our ability, that the result will follow."