Andy Moran’s steady hand on the Mayo tiller
Inspirational captain is fully fit again and eager to lead his side into another All-Ireland final
Now, he is back to where he would have been 12 months ago had injury not ruined his season. At Mayo’s press evening last week, Moran sat down to reflect on the season and once again sang of the team ethos, returning to last year’s final and the traumatic early minutes when Donegal were 2-1 up and pushing hard for a third goal.
David Clarke’s save when Colm McFadden was poised to strike again was of inestimable importance, he argued. Even sitting in the stands, his crutches by his side, he could see that.
“He nearly broke his own leg, he would have broke Colm’s leg. But he was going to save that ball. It drove us on.”
And Mayo didn’t fall apart. They kept hunting and chasing and were still in the game when the 70 minutes was up.
Despite the disappointment, it gave them more than enough sustenance for the long-term project.
It taught them what the needed to do to win an All-Ireland. So they worked on their tackling, their foot passing, their shooting accuracy and their conditioning. They disguised it well in the league but from the first day out against Galway, their intentions have been clear.
For Moran, much of this year has been about playing catch-up and even as he considered tomorrow’s semi-final, he still feels as if he is striving just to return to a place he took for granted for much of his career.
“I don’t think I missed a game for six years but the last 24 months have been a bit of a nightmare in terms of injuries. But I don’t worry about the knee. If it is going to go, it is going to go.”
And now Mayo and Andy Moran are in a strange position.
Mayo are outright favourites to win this year’s All-Ireland. The smart lads expect Andy Moran to become the first Mayo man to lift the Sam Maguire since another Ballaghaderreen man, Sean Flanagan, did so, in the touchstone September of 1951.
Tomorrow they play Tyrone, the most audacious football county of the modern era managed by the greatest innovator in Mickey Harte. Tyrone didn’t so much win three All-Irelands as claim them through Comanche raids. Nobody could live with them.
And yet Mayo are clear favourites to win tomorrow. These are delightful and perilous days for the Westerners. How many boats have gone down with the shore line in sight? In Andy Moran, they have the steadiest captain possible.