GIVEN the Mayo football team’s remarkable levels of consistency and excellence during the last ten years, there were always going to be stories told at some stage about how they achieved so many of their goals and went so close to winning an All-Ireland on so many occasions.
The first of these collections of stories from a retired Mayo player has come from Andy Moran, an engaging storyteller in his own right, who has collaborated with Colin Sheridan (a regular columnist on these pages) to write: ‘Andy - Lessons Learned In Pursuit Of Victory’.
“The book is about 2010 to 2019, and about how the team grew and developed as players and people,” Andy Moran told The Mayo News this week.
“It’s a story about a unit, a collective, and how you get that unit to maximise its power.
“At times we didn’t, but in 2017 I think that was the first time a Mayo team that I was involved with, operated at full concentration, at full throttle, at 100 percent. And that was the closest we got to getting over the line and winning the title we all fought for.”
MF: So where did the idea for the book come from?
AM: The book came from lockdown number one. I retired in August 2019 and didn’t really stop to take a breath in between the retirement and the lockdown on March 13, 2020.
I was working, did some media stuff, was coaching the Mayo Under-20s, started coaching my club, Ballaghaderreen, and when everything stopped, like everyone else, we had to stop.
I found it very difficult.
Myself and Jennifer were at home with two kids, Charlotte who was being home-schooled, and Ollie who was two, going on three at the time.
I found it really tough, it was really hard work. We were like every other small family in the west of Ireland, no visitors, nothing to do, no work because our businesses were closed due to Covid, and I was probably a bit of a nightmare around the house if I’m being honest.
So I literally just started writing. And the idea wasn’t to write a book, it was to give myself lessons from players that I played with.
I was adamant from a young age that I was going into coaching, but then I started thinking during lockdown, ‘what have I learned from people in the past?’
So I started thinking about stories from Colm Boyle, David Clarke, areas where I failed in my life, where pride might have got in my way, where I might have taken the easy option, where I might have blamed everybody else and not looked within for the answers.
All those things stood out to me so I just started writing about them, and all of a sudden the stories started coming.
The first person I probably wrote about was Keith [Higgins] or Cillian [O’Connor], their stories and what I learned from them were just massive. And what I could give back to the people that I’m about to coach. That’s where the book came from.”
MF: How would you categorise it?
AM: It’s about my learnings and my failures and mistakes I made, certainly as a young person. And failures I continue to make. And lessons I can learn from people.
People are obsessed with winning, particularly in sport. We didn’t win [an All-Ireland], I don’t hide away from that in the book, we didn’t win what we wanted to win. I didn’t achieve the goal that I wanted to achieve, like every other Mayo player of the last 70 years.
We didn’t win the All-Ireland. But does that make us a failure? I don’t think so.
In any other walk of life, a good team is a good team. And you can always take lessons from people along the way.
MF: What kind of emotions did writing the book stir up?
AM: I think it drew a line under my career. There were some emotions there that I didn’t realise were there. I always had a dream of bringing the Sam Maguire Cup back into Ballaghaderreen. When I wrote about that it was very humbling and very emotional.
There might have been a tear or two in that moment when I was writing about that.
But I felt very grateful to what Mayo supporters and the support staff gave to the team.
I’d have been very grateful for what the team gave to me, and the lessons I learnt from them.
I’d be very grateful to the management, and the early influencers I had like John O’Mahony.
MF: What was the best thing about writing it?
AM: Sport can be very cut-throat. You win, you’re a champion, you lose, and you’re nothing.
But writing the book reminded me how the group from 2010 to 2019 shared every emotion, and to be able to think about that again, and to reflect back on the importance that people like Jason Doherty, Caolan Crowe, Niamh Fitzpatrick. To think about that and the special moments we had together was absolutely brilliant.”
‘Andy - Lessons Learned In Pursuit of Victory’ is being officially launched this Thursday evening in the TF Royal Hotel, Castlebar at 7.30pm.
It’s published by Mayo Books Press; edited by Liam Horan; and designed by Siobhán Foody.