Andy Moran is a fund of interesting observations on All-Ireland finals and more specifically Mayo's role in them. The now retired former Footballer of the Year identifies what he sees as the key significance of Saturday's meeting of Mayo and Tyrone. Neither team lines out with an All-Ireland medal.
He cites the bitter experience of 2012 – the last time this happened – when Mayo took on Donegal. Captain that year, he had sustained a serious knee injury in the All-Ireland quarter-final win over Down and was a reluctant observer.
"With Rory Gallagher and Jim McGuinness pulling the strings from the side-line [Donegal] were an exceptional team , but they didn't know how to win either and that was the chance. On Saturday the chance for both Tyrone and Mayo lies in the fact that neither team have All-Ireland medals; neither got over the line before."
In all of Moran’s six All-Ireland experiences that was the only time Mayo lost to a team as inexperienced as they were. He is upbeat about his county’s chances now that what he sees as ideal conditions have again arisen.
“I said I feel both Tyrone and Mayo will give away the ball: there will be massive turnovers, there will be kickouts that go astray, people will miss frees – this will happen on Saturday, and you’ll see stuff in a final that hasn’t happened for a couple of years, but that then lies the opportunity to go and win the game.”
He said last month's semi-final between Kerry and Tyrone was a major cautionary tale when approaching the final.
"Kerry have given Mayo the blueprint of what not to do. Tyrone scored 2-8 off Kerry turnovers. It is so important that Mayo do not fall into that same trap. When you kick with nervousness and you kick in the atmosphere of an All-Ireland final, sometimes you can get lost within that moment as well.
“So I know Mayo will try to stop doing that, but sometimes you can run in there and not think for 30 seconds, get turned over and it can all kind of change.”
Adding to his optimism is the growing belief that injuries are clearing up and defenders Oisín Mullin, who missed the Dublin semi-final, and Eoghan McLaughlin, who was hospitalised afterwards, will be available.
"At this present moment the feedback around Mayo is that the two of them will play, and that is what we are hoping. On a personal level if you gave me one of them guys leaving Croke Park four weeks ago I'd have taken one of them, and I think it is going to be a huge benefit."
Nor does he see any doubt over captain Aidan O’Shea’s place despite being replaced in the semi-final.
"To me there is no question mark. Aidan O'Shea starts, and for us to win this game he needs to play a pivotal role. His physicality and Frank Burns not attacking gives him a chance to stay high up the field in around that centre section where he can create.
“They can give him the ball, bring in two or three bits of traffic, and lay it off to the smaller creative younger players. I don’t think there is any chance Aidan doesn’t start, and I expect him to have a big game.”
He is appreciative of the sentiment when asked whether a Mayo win at the weekend would symbolically put a medal in his pocket.
“That’s a nice way to put it, and that’s the way I look at it. It’s a relay race really. You go in and you try, like, I went and played in five finals and for the sixth one I was injured as the captain.
"I had my go. I had my chance. I had plenty of opportunities to go and win that and I didn't do it. Then you have to hand over the baton. You see the likes of Ryan O'Donoghue and Tommy Conroy and these guys coming through.
“Mayo are in an All-Ireland final with a huge chance to win it, and if they win it I think I’ll take nearly – of course you always want to win one as a player – as much satisfaction out of it as if I actually played.” * Andy Moran is Ireland Active ambassador and was launching National Fitness Day 2021, on Thursday, September 23rd. For further information visit https://nationalfitnessday.ie/.