Versatile Barry Moran still a central figure in Mayo’s strategy

Experienced midfielder says Mayo will tailor their tactics to combat Dublin’s strengths

"I came on and went off again that day," Barry Moran says candidly of his championship debut against Dublin in that tumultuous Ireland semi-final won decided by Ciarán McDonald 's winner some nine summers ago.

Moran was 19 then and the day was typical of his subsequent Mayo career. More than most players, he has been a victim of versatility and injury and the uncommon number of high-calibre midfielders in his county. But his masterful display as a kind of covering sweeper in Mayo's quarter final win, blocking out ball and sunlight from Donegal's Michael Murphy has cast him into the spotlight again.

He is a veteran now and accustomed to the extreme degrees of emotion that a Mayo championship summer can bring. And he is as enthusiastic as ever.

Played sweeper

“Absolutely, there would be a bit of nerves. I’ve played in a couple of different positions before, but I’d never played sweeper. So going into a big game like that, an All-Ireland quarter-final, it plays a small bit on your mind.


“But we had run through it over the last couple of weeks; I’d been comfortable enough from that point of view. But the most important thing is, once you get onto the pitch, you forget about that altogether and it went reasonably well in the end.”

It played a key role in Mayo’s victory. But it was also tailored specifically for Donegal. If Moran is selected for Sunday’s mouth-watering semi-final, it is likely to be in a conventional midfield role.

“It really is horses for courses. So what worked against Donegal obviously isn’t going to work against Dublin. Two totally different teams. They line out differently as well. So we’ll be trying out a few different things over the last couple of training sessions, to see what best suits the needs of the Dublin team. But it’s a totally different game and I’m sure the lads will go with something that they feel will combat the threat Dublin have.”

Central role

A quick scan of the Mayo squad makes it clear just how difficult it is to establish a central role in the team. The relocation of Aidan O’Shea to full-forward theoretically frees up a midfield role.

"He is playing brilliant there," Moran agrees, "but you can play him out in the middle as well. You can nearly play him anywhere, to be honest. You've Séamie, you've Tom Parsons and myself as well, so we have a few. But the competition is high . . .

“There might be some games where you utilise all those big men and there might be other games where you don’t; so it just depends on how they look at it. My bread and butter would be midfield, and if you don’t make the starting midfield you’re disappointed . I would always look to take that. But when the lads come up with a different way or different role, you have to go with it and make sure that, what they want you to do, you have a firm understanding. All you can do is stay positive.”

Moran was nominated for an All-Star in 2012 but his 2013 season was interrupted with a knee injury. He feels he looks after himself better now than in his first seasons and is among a coterie of experienced players who appear to come back stronger from previous disappointments.

He shakes his head when asked if there was a residual bitterness at the way in which Mayo exited the stage in their semi-final replay against Kerry last summer.

“No. Straight up, there wasn’t. A lot of people were talking about the decisions that were made and if you look at the two games against Kerry we had ample opportunities to win them and we didn’t.

“We would look at ourselves and say that on the day we were not good enough; no excuses and that is being honest. We don’t blame referees, we don’t blame anyone else, we blame ourselves.

“We had the opportunities to win that game and when you look at it, Kerry were the better team on the day, they were more ruthless, they pulled it back and they got the result. They were deserving All-Ireland champions last year.

Missed opportunities

“One thing we would look at was the missed opportunities and it is something we will learn from that if we get into that position again that we don’t lose it. We have fallen short, there is no doubt about it, in the last couple of years.

“We were within touching distance in the All-Ireland but we did not do it. There are one of two things that you can do; feel sorry for yourself and give up or try to learn from it and move on. And that is what this group of lads are about, we are determined to be as good as we can and we know that if we do that we have a great chance of winning an All-Ireland so why would we give up?”

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times