THERE’S a section in an old inter-varsity match programme devoted to ‘the very best of Sigerson fiction’. Among the myths referred to in the article are the notion that Brazilian soccer player Socrates won a Sigerson medal with UCD, and that an illegal player, asked by his marker what he was studying at university, replied ‘sums’.
Away from the fantasy football, IT Sligo have been concentrating on carving out a piece of history. Remarkably, Anthony Brennan’s team are chasing their fourth Sigerson Cup in six years. The competition is no longer the preserve of the old Queen’s Colleges, with the advent of sports scholarships helping to democratise a once closed shop.
Andy Moran will captain the IT Sligo side in Friday’s semi-final against University of Ulster Jordanstown in Belfast. The northerners are managed by one Mickey Moran, the man who, as Mayo manager, introduced the Ballaghaderreen man during last year’s All-Ireland semi-final. Mayo trailed Dublin by seven points when the younger Moran promised the Derry native that he would get him a goal. He duly delivered, rolling away from Shane Ryan and sticking the ball past Stephen Cluxton. It kickstarted a comeback that will live in infamy, notwithstanding the subsequent collapse against Kerry.
Mickey will be hoping his namesake doesn’t find the net on Friday, though on current form you wouldn’t bet against it. This is, after all, a guy who scored 1-3 in six minutes to sink Galway in the FBD League final. His performances were central as Ballaghaderreen became the story of last year’s club championship. His National League displays for Mayo suggest that he will have more than a cameo role to play when the serious business comes round.
Moran heads up a long list of Mayo players involved with IT Sligo. He has club mates Barry Regan and Barry Solan for company, alongside Alan Costello (Balla), Liam O’Malley (Burrishoole), Kevin Costello (Carramore), Tom Parsons (Charlestown) and Colm Boyle (Davitts). The latter’s goal clinched a quarter-final victory over the Garda Training College, after they had already accounted for IT Tralee and DIT.
“We haven’t really played as well as we want to play yet, but we’re getting there,” says Moran. “We’re still waiting to hit top form, but it’s difficult with a college team, because we don’t get to play that much with each other.”
A final year Business Studies and Recreation student, Moran is now approaching his final Sigerson with Sligo, but isn’t ruling out playing in the competition in future – “We’ll have to see where the career path takes me,” he says. Managing study along with serving three footballing masters (club, county and college) takes some juggling.
“It’s been difficult the last couple of weeks,” Moran admits. “We’ve been playing midweek games and then you’re playing with your county at the weekend. For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been going from the weekend onto Wednesday. So you have to have communication between county managers and college managers. And the club hasn’t even started yet really for me. The demands in the games are a bit too much at the start of a season. You’ve really no break.”
Moran is chasing his third Sigerson medal, having been part of the sides which won in 2004 (in Belfast) and 2005 (in Dundalk). Queen’s provided the opposition on both occasions, and the two will meet again should Sligo beat UUJ and QUB overcome Cork IT.
“Sigerson is all about the weekend really,” says Moran. “It’s unique because you have to play two games, assuming you win. And you’re with 35 fellas from different counties. We’ve lads from Donegal, Roscommon, Mayo, Sligo and Galway, so you’re playing with fellas that you don’t really know. But the whole thing about the weekend is that you would really do anything for the boys that you’re playing with. It’s not up to the pressure of county football really, but it’s a high standard, possibly the second highest level after county football. Everyone just bonds together for the weekend. We’ll be going gung-ho for it.”
All out to win a third medal. He already has two more than Socrates ever managed.