The morning after letting a game that was there for the winning slip against Kerry in McHale Park, it would be no player’s ideal way to spend an hour in the presence of journalists looking for answers to myriad questions on the state of play in Mayo football. But as is necessitated in the age of sponsorship and PR, Andy Moran took some time off work and brought himself to the border in Cong to promote Sunday’s Allianz League game against Galway in Tuam Stadium.
The 27-year-old Ballaghaderreen club man has always been a straight talker and he was no different this time out. After having some time to reflect on what went wrong against Kerry when Mayo couldn’t put to bed the Munster men, Moran was straight and honest in his analysis.
“The whole range of skills between shooting, making little mistakes like ball handling, not clearing the ball in time, things like that,” he said. “But we were very happy with the way we played all the same, to get the chances is the key at times. But we really didn’t handle the weather all that well when it came to putting the ball over the bar.”
The decision to give Kerry a penalty, which changed the course of the contest, was the major talking point at the end of the game and, while Moran didn’t think it was a spot kick, he recognises that himself and his team mates all played contributing factors to the decision being made. “The penalty, to be honest I thought it was a harsh decision, I think 90 per cent of people who were at the match didn’t think it was a penalty. Maurice (Deegan ) saw it another way and I think he got a few other decisions wrong. But the basic fact is that we had three or four chances to clear the ball. Our half forward line didn’t work hard enough to give the boys an opportunity to give it to us, and there were a few mistakes back at bit further and they capitalised. Bryan Sheehan put it to the corner of the net, he took his chance, it’s as simple as that. It’s a harsh game sometimes, but that’s the way it is. We’ll learn from that as well.”
Mayo’s inability to convert frees into points on the board was something that caught a lot of people’s attention against Kerry but Moran said that the weather played a major role in that. “Alan (Dillon ) would have taken frees and Neil (Douglas ) would have taken frees, I wouldn’t be a naturally assigned free taker, I wouldn’t have taken them in the past; if the chance is there I have no problem taking them. I suppose Aidan (Kilcoyne ) is a naturally assigned free-taker, yesterday the conditions were terrible, I wouldn’t hold that against anyone missing them yesterday. I’m sure if he gets a chance to take them again the next day he’ll slot them over.”
Different sidelines but all looking for the same thing
Having been part of the Mayo senior set up for the past eight years since he first came in to the reckoning in 2003, Andy has played under the John Maughan, Mickey Moran, John O’Mahony, and now James Horan in the green and red of Mayo for the senior team. Moran is full of praise for all those who came before Horan and for the current man in the spotlight and his back room team. “All the guys I played under were all very professional guys, at the end of the day we all got the same result. We didn’t win what we wanted to win, we won Connacht titles under the three of them but we didn’t win any All Irelands, James Horan is no different, a very good guy, we’re not lacking in anything. You’ve got the likes of James Nallen and James Horan, they have four All-Stars between them which is unheard of in Mayo football. Two great guys, James Nallen has been there and seen it all since 1994/95; if you can’t take advice off James Nallen you have no reason to be in a Mayo panel. It’s great to have the depth of knowledge that these guys have on the sideline.”
“You always love playing Galway”
With Galway coming up on Sunday, it’s always a special game when the two sides square up and one Moran is looking forward too. “You always love playing against Galway, no matter if you’re playing Galway in an FBD game or a challenge it will only be a one or two point game between the two of ye. The fact that it is in Tuam as well makes it even tighter, it’s going to make the battle even harder.”
With both sides languishing at the bottom of the table, when asked was this a relegation play off already, Moran thinks that there is a long way to go in the league yet. “I wouldn’t say that, I think Galway have had two away games, so they’ll have three home games coming up; if they win all those they’ll be on six points and be safe. We’ve already got a point, two home games to come and five or six points should keep you safe. If we win at the weekend we’ll be on three points and be half way up the league and we won’t be talking about relegation, if we lose we’ll be at the bottom of the table and it will become a relegation game.”
Mayo will be back in an All-Ireland final
Much like many players of his age bracket, Moran has tasted his fair share of heartache in All-Ireland finals over the past number of years, but he wouldn’t trade those days for anything. “I’ve lost a minor final, in 2004 I lost two All-Ireland finals in six days, the senior and u21, the senior final in 2006, it’s better in my opinion any day of the week to be getting there than not getting there. Once you get there you know you can do it. The two All-Ireland finals I’ve lost senior-wise, the simple fact of the matter was we weren’t good enough, people like writing about stuff like, if Mayo did this, if Mayo did that. The simple fact was we got blown away in the two All-Ireland finals because we weren’t good enough, Kerry were a far, far superior team to us. Do I think we’ll get back there? Definitely, I have no doubt about it. The quality of footballer in Mayo is improving all the time and it’s only a matter of time before we get back to that level again.”
With the captaincy of the team still to be decided on a permanent basis for the coming year, when asked would he want it, Moran was unequivocal in his response. “I’d love it. Listen, there are 30 guys there on that panel, if any one of them don’t want to be captain of Mayo they shouldn’t be there, to be honest with you, any day of the week I’d want it.” On Sunday Moran and his team-mates will make the short trip to Tuam to take on Galway in what, as past history tells us, will be a down to the wire game.”