Billy Joe Padden
NOBODY deserved to win Footballer of the Year more than Andy Moran.
There’s so much talk in the modern game about physicality and conditioning, and there’s no doubt that he’s in great shape, but for me this award is testament to his intelligence.
I firmly believe that Andy’s renaissance as an inter-county footballer is built around what he’s learned about himself and his body, and how he changed his game this season.
If I’m being honest I’m not a huge fan of the way Gaelic football has become all about athleticism, but Andy winning POTY is a victory for guile and craft.
And it shows that nice guys can succeed too.
I joined the Mayo senior panel around the same time as Andy, and he used to drive me nuts in those early days because he was just so bloody enthusiastic!
In my mind’s eye I can still see a gang of us running around Belleek in Ballina, trying not to get sick, and Andy just running around with a big happy head on him. Smiling, laughing and encouraging.
I could have killed him!
But that’s Andy, and that’s what’s made him such a popular and respected fella in the Mayo dressing-room for years, and such a popular and respected footballer around the country. It’s impossible to dislike Andy.
He gives any team he’s involved with energy, because the way he carries himself, he just won’t accept a lack of enthusiasm or lethargy.
Andy would be the first to admit that he was never the biggest, strongest or fastest but, when he hit his stride with Mayo, he was always in the top five of every run, every drill, every test.
And every season that went by he became a better footballer, a smarter footballer, and before he did his cruciate in 2013 he was the quintessential all-action wing-forward.
Back then he couldn’t have been the inside forward that he became in 2017; for starters, Andy just didn’t have the patience to play that role a few years ago!
But his skillset pushed him towards goal and this summer he showed a level of consistency and excellence that was as unbelievable as it was successful.
I have no problem admitting that I thought Andy’s best role for Mayo in the championship would have been coming off the bench, being on the field for the last twenty minutes of big games.
I’m happy that I called that wrong, that Andy proved me wrong.
My opinion was based on the fact that I expected him to be able to make a really positive contribution for twenty to thirty minutes, not sixty minutes.
Because — and let me put this in context for readers — what Andy did over the course of Mayo’s ten championship matches this summer was absolutely incredible.
I honestly don’t know if we’ll ever see a footballer like Andy — in a game that is now completely dominated by athleticism —hit the heights that he did in Croke Park when the chips were down.
Given his age, his longevity, his injury record, to excel the way he did against the likes of Roscommon, Kerry and Dublin should not be underestimated.
To reach those heights consistently proves to me beyond all reasonable doubt that Andy Moran carries out a lot of self-analysis as a footballer.
I would imagine that he has a circle of trust around him with people who tell him how he’s going and what he needs to be doing. I think constructive criticism is something that Andy would go looking for among his circle.
You only have to look at the way his body has changed for the better, he’s lighter now than he used to be. There’s been a massive improvement in how he plays tactically too, no more long runs out to the corner flag. His best work this summer was done around the ‘D’.
Make no mistake, you don’t achieve what Andy has achieved in the game without an obsessive drive and a relentless enthusiasm.
He’s a competitor, who’s never been afraid of losing All-Irelands.
He isn’t afraid of anything. Well done, Andy.
‘Mini McGregor’ is rewarded for starring role
I WAS down at home in Belmullet for a few days last week and I couldn’t help but spend a few minutes admiring the two All Stars that my dad won back in the day.
I was pretty confident that Chrissy Barrett was going to bring another All Star back to the parish, and I felt so proud when I saw him going up to collect it on Friday night in Dublin.
I know Chrissy, I played with him, and he knows how much I think of him.
I’ve also been a huge admirer of the way he plays the game and represents Belmullet and Mayo. And his All Star award is due reward for some great displays in the green and red jersey this summer.
Like Brendan Harrison last year, Chrissy delivered a string of huge performances through the championship and stepped up to the mark when the team needed him.
He’s a fantastic footballer, not the biggest or strongest, but it’s his aggression and willingness to fight that makes him that few inches taller and few kilos heavier in the heat of battle. As I’ve said before, he’s our ‘Mini McGregor’!
Every team needs a Chrissy Barrett.
Just like every team needs an Aidan O’Shea.
I thought he was the best midfielder in the country this summer, and the fact that he did a job for the team in other positions too just underlined how far he came in the space of a few months. He was immense in the big games and, if he can stay injury-free next season, I think he can kick on again.
Well done to all our All Star winners.
When I was playing with Mayo, winning an All Star probably meant more to lads from the county because, if I’m being honest, our group hadn’t fully bought into the ‘team’ ethos.
This current group is different, but they deserve every All Star they get.