David Moran embracing father figure role for new-look Kerry
Faces may change but ultimate success in September remains Kingdom’s sole goal
David Moran: 'That’s the key to rejuvenating a team; you need fresh blood coming in. It’s great that guys are putting up their hand.' Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
When David Moran talks about this “onus” on the more senior Kerry footballers to lead by example he is naturally enough talking about himself. With the possible exception of Kieran Donaghy, no player carries more gravitas into the Kerry dressing room right now.
At 29, Moran is not just one of the elder statesmen of the team. Nor indeed the currently sole link to the great Kerry team of the previous generation, which included his dad and eight-time All-Ireland winner, Denis ‘Ogie’ Moran.
He also knows everything there is to know about success and failure and not getting lost on what comes in between. His appreciation for the present is strong, as is his sense of circumspection when it comes to the future.
Sunday’s All-Ireland football quarter-final against Galway provides a neat reminder of all that. Moran first broke onto the Kerry senior team in 2008, aged 20, and was on the panel for that summer’s quarter-final against Galway, played in the August Bank Holiday deluge at Croke Park, which Kerry won by five points.
He then featured in both the 2008 semi-final win over Cork, and All-Ireland final defeat to Tyrone, and as hurtful as that was, he’d every reason to believe it was only a blip.
Only by the time Kerry next played Galway in the championship, in the 2014 quarter-final – which Kerry also won, this time by seven – Moran hadn’t made a single championship appearance for Kerry between July 2010 and August 2013. He came off the bench that day against Galway, started both the drawn and replayed semi-final against Mayo, and delivered such a towering midfield performance in the 2014 All-Ireland final win over Donegal that he ended up that season with his first All Star.
That replayed semi-final against Mayo also made for one of the standout stats of the summer; 47 possessions, over twice more than any Mayo player.
“You know as good as it is, we’re under no illusions that it was great to win the league and the Munster championship, our season will be ultimately defined by what happens late in September,” says Moran, again knowing exactly what he is talking about.
“Whether we are there or not is going to be the telling of that. We’ve been around long enough, and we’ve lost quarter-finals and semi-finals, to know that you can’t just tick it off.”
What exactly happened Moran in between those three barren years was a torn cruciate on the same left knee not once but twice and in quick succession, then the tearing of a half the retina inside his right eye.
This year, Kerry have already extended that quite startling record of being the only county to qualify for the All-Ireland quarter-finals every year since their introduction in 2001. (Just as impressive, of those they’ve won 14, lost only two, and drawn one.)
But it’s been done with the mostly new generation of Kerry footballer, Colm “Gooch” Cooper’s retirement earlier this season amply capable of worsening any withdrawal symptoms already felt after the exodus of Declan O’Sullivan, Paul Galvin, plus Marc and Tomás Ó Sé, etc
Instead, into that breach have come youngsters such as Jack Barry, Jack Savage, Kieran McCarthy and Tadhg Morley which, like it or not, makes Moran feel like the father figure of the team.
“They’re definitely a lot younger anyway the last couple of years,” says Moran, speaking at the launch of Kerry’s new sponsorship deal with Alliance Medical. “There’s fellas coming in and their birthdays are scaring me. There ’s a lot of the under-21s and the minors and I suppose the successful minor team have come in and they’ve brought a great freshness to it.
“That’s the key to rejuvenating a team; you need fresh blood coming in. It’s great that guys are putting up their hand and they’re getting game time, it’s been fantastic.”
That father figure role is perhaps further emphasised by the fact that Moran grew up playing alongside the sons of other Kerry greats, none of whom quite managed to make the same impact on the senior team. Tommy Walsh for example, son of Seán, and also Aidan O’Shea, son of Jack, and Eoin Liston, son of ‘Bomber’, each of whose dads won seven All-Irelands.
Moran is also one of the last playing links to the Kerry team that won their last All-Ireland U-21 title, in 2008, along with then captain Killian Young, Shane Enright and fellow midfielder Johnny Buckley.
For Galway, who last beat Kerry in the championship in the 1965 All-Ireland final, losing five and drawing one meeting since, that much all makes for quite intimidating reading.