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Andy Moran still chasing the ultimate football salvation

Mayo veteran has no intention of giving up pursuit of his goal – All-Ireland glory

Mayo’s Andy Moran with Michael Fitzsimons of Dublin: “In terms of football this is what we do, what we love, so we just go again.” Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

“Go easy on me,” says Andy Moran, before sitting down for his first interview since the All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin.

As if Moran has anything to be either afraid of or sorry for. 

His performances for Mayo this summer were a revelation on several counts – not least in defying his supposedly ancient 33 years. And if the end result ticked another box of regrets it’s done nothing to lessen his desire to keep chasing the now ultimate football salvation.   

“If anything I think losing makes that hunger even greater, at least you’re still chasing something,” he says, surmising both his and Mayo’s desire to rise again in 2018 and beyond. For sure he wants to be part of it. 

He turns 34 in November, and 2018 would mark his 14th season at senior level, having already made over 150 appearances for Mayo between league and championship. His own form this year – the now clear favourite for footballer of the year – had little to do with his decision; he was likely to continue anyway. 

“This thing about quitting, I’ll go when the likes of Stephen Rochford and them boys run me. I suppose that’s kind of the way we were brought up, from the town we’re from. So I don’t think I’ve ever had in my head that I’d ever quit. If Jenny my wife backs me, and my life kind of goes with it, there’s no reason why I would not go back, to be honest. 

“We’re in a very privileged position, from Mayo as you know, a bit nuts, as you say. Our first league game next year will probably have 15,000 people at it, at McHale Park, so that definitely makes it a bit easier, in where we want to go to, and get to. In terms of football this is what we do, what we love, so we just go again. We’re lucky enough due another child in January, and fingers crossed everything goes well there. I’ll be back in 2018, no doubt yeah. 

“Is there a difference to last year? There probably isn’t, being honest. It’s the same net result as what we got last year, in terms of the result from an All-Ireland final. But life goes on, as you say.” 

Speaking at the announcement of the GAA/GPA Player of the Month awards, Moran – the August monthly winner – spoke about several high points of the summer but also the lows; some of the criticism of his manager; Mayo’s failure to close out the final against Dublin. 

“It’s a funny situation. You genuinely do not look at anything. You take Twitter off the phone, take Facebook off the phone. You don’t see any of the criticism so you only begin to hear it when it is all over. The reaction to Stephen, he’s our manager, he’s the fella that leads us, so the reaction from the supporters to him and to the players was just to say thanks very much.” 

Yet Mayo’s inability to close out the final – compared to Dublin – was criticised by many. In hindsight, might Mayo have tried to slow down the game, like Dublin did, by whatever means possible, having been two points ahead with just over five minutes remaining? 

Great champions

“It’s hard to know. We’d get criticised if we did, and criticised if we didn’t. I think the Dubs are great champions, three-in-a-row. In my time playing football that hasn’t been done. Would I look too much into it? 

“If it’s within the rules and they did it, that’s it, it wouldn’t really faze me either way. Would we have done the same thing? To answer the question I would be hoping we would be clinical enough to close out the game. Would we have done the same thing? I’m not sure. But we’d be hoping we would be clinical enough to close out the game before we were in that position.” 

The endgame incident where team-mate Lee Keegan threw his GPS device at Dean Rock in a desperate effort to distract him is something Moran it neither willing nor able to delve into.

“To be honest I wasn’t aware until the function that night. A lot of things go on in that period of time. You are over 70 minutes in an All-Ireland final. It’s all go, a lot of issues going on, stuff happens, whatever. If you have an opinion on the GPS, that’s fine.

 “I think everyone is entitled to their opinion in that situation. It is what it is. It’s not really a big deal for me. Dean kicks the free...” 

Moran’s own replacement in the closing minutes of the final was also criticised by some, yet he says he’d hurt his hamstring in the Jason Doherty goal chance, “so it was the right decision probably at the right time...”

 He doesn’t expect any retirements, players or management, yet still hasn’t found the heart to look back on the game: “And I won’t watch it until November/December when I have to take the learnings from it. 

“Last year you have to remember we drew with Dublin in the first game, the two goals that they scored, they were very good chances, then the own goals . . . The last three, four finals we lost by a point. So I think we performed in the previous three finals to be honest.” 

The other GAA/GPA Player of the Month award winners, the first under the new sponsorship of PwC, saw Galway’s Conor Cooney and Mayo’s Lee Keegan as July winners, while Waterford’s Jamie Barron was the other August winner. Work commitments meant Lee Keegan was unable to attend the event.