THE LAST GOODBYE Mayo’s Andy Moran looks around Croke Park for the last time after the All-Ireland SFC semi-final defeat to Dublin earlier this month. Pic: Sportsfile
Billy Joe Padden
THE news that Andy Moran has decided to retire from active service with Mayo means that we’ve seen the last of one of the greatest ever players to wear the Green and Red jersey.
I had the pleasure and the honour to play with Andy for quite a few years, and that’s something that I will hopefully be able to tell my grandchildren about in years to come — that I played with one of Mayo’s finest.
From his arrival as a fresh-faced teenager in 2003 until his cameo off the bench against Dublin at Croke Park a few weeks ago, Andy has been a key contributor to many different Mayo teams over the years.
In terms of the current Mayo team, I’m not sure that players like Colm Boyle, Lee Keegan, Aidan O’Shea and Cillian O’Connor, would have developed the way they have without him. Andy always strove to be the best he could be.
When I played with him he drove me nuts at times such was his enthusiasm for work and training. To be honest, I was just trying to get through a session in one piece but Andy was always trying to excel and that has been evident throughout his whole career.
Whatever position he was asked to play he inevitably did well there once he’d mastered the basics. His attitude would have been that he wanted to be the best wing-back, the best half-forward, the best corner-forward. Winning Footballer of the Year as an inside forward in 2017 just shows how he achieved his goals and hit a level of consistent excellence that most of us can only dream about.
Even this season, when the chips were down in the National League Final and against Donegal in that Super 8 game in Castlebar, Andy delivered the goods.
I definitely think Andy could have gone on and contributed with Mayo again next year on the basis of what he brought to the table in 2019. Remember the pass to Ciaran Treacy for the goal against Kerry in the League Final? The way he took the game by the scruff of the neck against Meath? How he went looking and hunting for work against Donegal.
All of those memories, and the rest, leaves us wanting a bit more but it’s totally understandable. He can walk away as one of the finest footballers to ever lace a boot for a Mayo team.
FOR me, Andy Moran is one of the key people who has driven the change in the Mayo football mentality and without him, I don’t think this group of players would have had the resilence and the mentality to come back again, and again, and again.
After all the knock-backs, setbacks, disappointments, near misses and heartbreaks over the years, to keep getting back up and going again to compete at the highest level.
It’s his never-say-die attitude, his positivity and enthusiasm, his relentless nature and steeliness that has done so much to shape this team and this group.
It was inevitable that it was going to rub off on many of the other players over the years.
Future Mayo footballers should learn, not just Andy Moran’s excellence as a footballer, but also his excellence in terms of his mentality.
Nobody should underestimate how hard it was to keep going for 17 seasons at that level.
I remember him playing wing-back with Mayo for years and being ultra-versatile, and the way the game has gone now, it’s one of the reasons Mayo have been so competitive and relatively successful since 2011.
They’ve a number of players who are versatile, players we would see as being half-backs, the likes of Paddy Durcan and Lee Keegan who can also do jobs in the full-back line and be an attacking threat when needs be. And I think that’s part of Andy’s legacy, that versatility you need to have if you’re going to be a inter-county footballer for Mayo.
In the future, any young Mayo footballer should look at that and think that they need to be able to do what Andy did; whether that’s play out around the middle or develop into one of the best footballers in the full-forward line in the country.
Because that’s what he has done. He’s played a lot of county football in the half-back line and half forward lines but eventually found his best position in the full-forward line.
But that’s to his credit, his intelligence, that he was able to learn that he was at his most effective for the team in close to goal. And when he was good, he was brilliant!
When I think about Andy Moran, and when I look back at his whole career, I think of the way he carried himself on the field, his discipline, his attitude, his sportsmanship, his commitment to his club and his county, his approach to the media, Mayo supporters and the general public, I think its exemplary the way he has carried himself.
I don’t say this lightly, because there have been some wonderful footballers and ambassadors for Mayo football who have worn the jersey over the years, but Andy is a credit to his family, his wife, his children, and Ballaghaderreen GAA club with the way he has carried himself over the years and represented Mayo. He has always shown real class in everything he has done, on and off the field.
He has dealt with serious knee and leg injuries with amazing amounts of resilience too.
And, personally, I’m extremely proud to say I lined out with a player and a person of the calibre of Andy Moran. He was one of Mayo’s greatest of all time.