Limerick’s Niall Moran proud to be part of team with ex-pupils
Ard Scoil Rís teacher played role in developing players from both Limerick and Clare
Limerick’s Shane Dowling and Declan Hannon lift the Dr Harty Cup for Ard Scoil Ris in 2011. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho.
In the countdown to another seemingly inseparable All-Ireland hurling semi-final – this time between Limerick and Clare – Niall Moran has found himself trying to separate some more personal sentiment.
It’s not so much that, aged 30, Moran is now considered one of the veterans of the Limerick team, and indeed limited to playing a substitute’s role. Moran is easily content with that, and understandably so, given how pivotal the Limerick substitutions have been in their two championship games this summer.
“We all want to start,” he says, “and John Allen has always said guys will be picked on form. But unfortunately some of us haven’t done enough to start. That’s the way it is with Limerick. We are all 100 per cent going in the same direction. What John Allen says goes. He knows his stuff and if we can make an impact for two minutes then so be it.
“Any of us who came on the last day, against Cork, we couldn’t get on quick enough. It will be the same for the five subs that come on in the semi-final. In the last four or five years the landscape of hurling has changed, in terms of panel play. So they day of being pissed off because you’re not starting is gone a long time ago.”
What Moran is a little more torn up about is facing off against some of the Clare players he helped nurture during their days at Ardscoil Rís. A teacher of business studies, where he also coaches hurling, Moran would have both taught and coached Clare’s Cathal McInerney, Colin Ryan, Nicky O’Connell and Darach Honan (and also Jamie Shanahan, part of the extended panel).
Likewise, he’s both taught and coached Limerick’s Declan Hannon, Shane Dowling, Kevin Downes, Mark Carmody and Alan Dempsey, while others such as Conor Ailis, David Breen and Adrian Breen went through the school too.
Indeed Moran has played a big hand in reviving the fortunes of hurling at Ardscoil Rís, the Limerick city school is still predominantly known for its rugby ethos (and indeed famous past pupils such as Paul O’Connell).
“I was in front of them in classroom anyway,” he says. “Some people ask is it strange to play with or against fellas they have through. And it’s not really because guys are making it at such a young age nowadays that you are going to play against them. It’s nice to chart their progress and I’m sure they look forward to playing against me as much as I look forward to pitting myself against them.
“But there is great pride there. We had great times in Ard Scoil Rís and they won’t be forgotten about because we’re hurling against them now. Hurling is the lifeblood of the school year. They probably fought against a tide of negativity and challenging rugby’s pre-eminence in the city as well. There were loads of obstacles that were put in their face and they have overcome them.”
Another thing Moran has witnessed over his many years on the Limerick panel is the changing attitudes towards success, or at least compared to when they last won the Munster title, in 1996.
“Yeah, you used to hear about some of the celebrations, and it was nearly folklore. But we were so keen to get back onto solid ground after the Munster final. On the Monday morning after, it was a case of the next step.
“We won in Munster but John Allen has been saying it is a four game championship, and we have two of them played. Clare have played a couple of extra games but we are both in the semi-final and there is only one prize we are interested in now and that’s getting to an All-Ireland final.
“And if you were look at this from a neutral point of view you will see two very, very young teams, two very skilful teams, with two very, very good managers. Honestly, there’s nothing between these two teams. It might be as simple as a break on the day of the match. These teams are even-steven.”
Allen, meanwhile, should be able to pick from a full panel for Sunday’s game: Kevin Downes (broken toe), Shane Dowling (shoulder), Seán Tobin (broken bone in foot and tendon damage) have all returned to some training in the last week, and therefore in the running for a place in the 26-man match day panel.