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Rochford: ‘Andy always led from the front’

Sport

Mike Finnerty

FORMER Mayo manager Stephen Rochford says that Andy Moran ‘embodied the resilience of Mayo football’ and believes that the Ballaghaderreen man was ‘one of the best inside forwards that Mayo have ever had’.
Rochford believes that Moran, who will turn 36 in November and announced his retirement from inter-county football last week, will be ‘very hard to replace’.
“Nobody embodied the resilience of Mayo football more than Andy Moran during his career,” Rochford told The Mayo News.
“Even in the last seven or eight years he was hit by some serious injuries, like a broken leg and a torn cruciate, and missed the 2012 All-Ireland Final when he was team captain.
“But he bounced back from all of those setbacks.
“Andy is up there as one of the best inside forwards that Mayo have ever had, during my time watching Mayo football,” continued Rochford, who also came up against Moran last month in his current role as Donegal coach.
“His ability to bring other players into the game was second-to-none. I think the goal he scored against Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final in 2017 really summed up his ability to involve other players.
“Even in the Mayo-Donegal game recently, he had a major influence on the result. So he was doing his stuff right up until the very end.
“He’ll be hard to replace. In the key games this year he showed maturity, leadership and experience, like when he came on in the League Final and against Meath and Donegal in the Super 8s.”
Rochford worked with Moran for three seasons, during which time the two-time All Star played some of the best football of his Mayo career.
He also got to see the man who made more appearances for Mayo than any other player up close on the training ground, and was nothing but impressed by his work ethic and leadership ability.
“Andy went about re-inventing himself really as an inside forward during my three years as Mayo manager,” he recalled.
“On and off the field, he led by example.
“Andy exuded positivity and was a glass half-full type of person in the dressing-room. And he was never short of a word!
“He was very well-respected and would always look to take young players like Conor Loftus or James Carr under his wing.
“We had a lot of twists and turns in 2016 and 2017 on our way to the All-Ireland Finals, but he always put his hand up and led, he never shirked any responsibility.
“It was easy to see why James Horan named him as captain in the past, he was totally invested in what the group were trying to achieve.”
When asked to pick out one game where Andy Moran really showed what he was made of during 2016 to 2018, Rochford selected an All-Ireland Qualifier win over Clare in Ennis in 2017.
“It was a real cauldron that evening, and in the first 25 minutes we weren’t going as well as we would have liked,” he recalled.
“Clare were coming at us and we were trying to get to grips with them. I remember Andy came up with a few scores that were hugely important at the time. When we needed him, he showed leadership.
“His ball-winning ability was second to none really, he added.
“His ability to win ball in key areas and his threat on goal became more and more apparent with every game that summer.
“That was something that he really worked hard on; his physicality and real upper body strength was a big part of it, but he also did so much work to get that yard he needed to win the ball in front of his man.
“I think after he did his cruciate and broke his leg, he had to listen to his body. He changed his job, his lifestyle, how he shaped his days, he got enough rest and he prepared his body for training and matches.
“Any guy who was Footballer of the Year only a few years ago will be hard to replace.”

Factfile
Name: Andy Moran
From: Ballaghaderreen
Age: 35
League debut: 2003
Championship debut: 2004
Did you know? Andy was on the books of Longford Town FC in 2003 when called into the Mayo senior panel by John Maughan.

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