Back in action
Last year’s All-Ireland final defeat is a source of motivation for Mayo captain Andy Moran
GUESS which moment from last year’s All-Ireland Final defeat to Donegal stands out in Andy Moran’s memory?
Consider that Mayo’s captain was sitting in the stands, injured, watching as the game got away from his team-mates and Donegal kept them at arm’s length after those early goals that did so much damage in the long run.
For Moran, it was a save from David Clarke in the 16th minute that denied Colm McFadden a third Donegal goal that could have ripped the floodgates off their hinges.
That moment of defiance from Mayo’s goalkeeper, allied to the team’s refusal to show the white feather over the final sixty minutes of the game, are what convinced Moran that this defeat was different.
Sure, it hurt in the hours, days and weeks that followed, but when the players reconvened in October they vowed to return fitter, faster, stronger and more skilful.
So far, they have been true to their word.
“You can’t underestimate it,” the Ballaghaderreen native said last week when asked about that last hour of the All-Ireland Final in terms of the development of this Mayo squad.
“I think the guts and the courage the lads showed. . I’ll pick out a pivotal moment in the game, David Clarke’s save on Colm McFadden for [what would have been] their third goal. He nearly broke his own leg, he would have broken Colm’s leg. But he was going to save that ball. It drove us on.
“Yes, we lost the All-Ireland, another one, but we lost it fighting.
“If you look at 2004 and 2006, we were probably reaching the end of a great team from the 1996, 1997 era. James Nallen, Ciaran McDonald, Kevin O’Neill. .
“Last year was at the start of a lot of careers, our average age is around 23 or 24, so it was important that the guys fought back like that.
“We went back and we analysed it in October,” he added, warming to the theme. “That room was a tough place. We looked at the game and it was skills more than anything else that let us down.
“So we went away and we worked on our skills and we worked on our tackling and aspects of our play.
On Sunday we have a chance to show this. We aim to learn from the lessons from the past but not to be hindered by them.”
ANOTHER watershed in the evolution of this team was a random National League match two years ago, according to the former All Star full-forward. It was against Dublin in Croke Park when some issues in Mayo’s set-up were exposed.
“They scored 4-0 in the first half,” said Moran. “We had to change something that day at half-time.
“We’re three years into that cycle now. Donie Buckley has come in and done some great work, James has continued the great work he’s been doing, and they’re the key things.”
Andy Moran is holding court in Breaffy House Hotel, a year and a week since he was carted off at Croke Park with a torn cruciate knee ligament.
Inevitably, the conversation turns towards his injury, his rehabilitation, his return and his form. Each of the issues are addressed in typically honest, upbeat fashion.
“The biggest thing is the match practice. I’d often heard that and thought that you’d be getting enough in training.
“But it’s little tricks that you learn on the field that you might have forgotten. I had a good tussle against Donegal and you come away from that and you can analyse it, and improve on it.
“You can’t buy that in training or in club games. The standard is not the same as being in a championship game.
Do I feel like I’m in good form? I feel like I’m coming into it but I have to prove that on the big stage at Croke Park.”
Next Sunday he gets another chance against Tyrone.
“The head leads and the rest follows,” he admitted. “The self-confidence is the key. When you feel you can go win a ball and turn, the body follows the head. When that happens you’re in a good place and I feel that I’m getting there.”
Hopefully, him and Mayo both.
Andy Moran on...
His knee injury
I don’t think I missed a game for six years but the last 24 months have been a bit of a nightmare with injuries. But I don’t worry about the knee. If it’s going to go, it’s going to go.
I’m in the last five or six years of my career so I just need to go for it.
Three of the National League semi-finalists are left in the championship. I came into the panel in 2003 and the league has got gradually more important as the years have gone.
We’d played twice in Croke Park already this year before the Donegal game and you can’t buy that kind of experience.
When you’ve a positive guy around the pitch it makes a big, big difference. Donie would never give you a bad word, it’s positive, it’s intelligent.
He analyses teams and he’s just a good guy to have around the place. His coaching knowledge is second-to-none in my opinion.
Name: Andy Moran
Occupation: Business Development manager, iMed Healthcare Ltd.
C’ship Debut: 2004
Honours: Six Connacht SFC medals, one All Star.
Did you know? Andy Moran is the only married man in the Mayo senior football squad.