Although he was powerless to do anything to help his team-mates, from his place; injured and on the bench in the Hogan Stand as Mayo took on more water early on than they could bail out over the seventy minutes of last years All Ireland final, Andy Moran still has taken plenty from that most recent sunken Mayo adventure into late September football. Shipping two goals inside the opening ten minutes was never going to be an easy task to navigate, but the final hour of that game and one moment in particular has steered Mayo's ship this year, back to within one game again to the having a crack at the final leg of an epic journey according to the Mayo captain. “I think, you can't underestimated it (Mayo's performance in the final hour ). The guts and the courage the lads showed right from where I'd pick out a pivotal moment was,when David Clarke saved from Colm McFadden for what would have been their third goal, I think he nearly broke his own leg and Colm's leg, he was going to save that ball and it drove us on to be honest with you. To me that is the major point of that game and yes we lost the All Ireland, it was another one we lost, but we lost it fighting and that was a key thing.”
Learning from what happened in that final and what was the reasons they lost the game is something that Mayo did early enough after, Moran explained and it's up to them now to put what they learned back into practice on Sunday against Tyrone. “We went back and analyzed it in October and that room was a tough place, we looked at the game and it was skills more than anything else that let us down. We went away and we worked on our skills, on our tackling and our tempo and again on Sunday we've a chance to show it, and it's up to ups to or not.”
It's been an up and down last two years for Moran, fresh out of losing to Kerry in the All Ireland semi-final of 2011, he injured his ankle in training for the compromise rules that ruled him out of that jaunt and the early part of 2012. But he did pick up an All Star for his efforts that season to numb the pain of missing that Australia trip. Fast forward to last August and after captaining Mayo to Connacht final success, he twisted on the turf under the Cusack Stand in the All Ireland quarter-final against Down and his knee went and gone with it his chance of captaining Mayo to All Ireland glory last September. But, there's one thing anyone whose spent any time with Andy Moran, will tell you. It's nearly impossible to find a more positive person in gaelic games, than the Ballaghaderreen man. When asked did he worry about his knee going again he quickly responded, “I've been very lucky with injuries through my career, up to the last 24 months which has been a bit of a nightmare. I don't think I missed a game for six years before that. So I don't really worry about it to be honest, if it goes again, it goes again. If you're going to worry about it you're not going to enjoy that last five or six years of you're career. I thought I would have been back in seven months, but to be honest it's taken me ten to 12 months really to get back, it's been a hard road. The fact I missed the league to, was a big one. You're not getting the match practice, it's great now though it's all behind me.”
Getting the games under his belt has been his main focus for the last few months and he's been feeling the benefit of them he reckons. “The biggest thing to be honest with you is the match practice. I've often heard this and thought (to myself ) listen 'you're getting enough in training' but it's the little tricks here and there that you learn on the field that you might have forgotten, just little bits of match practice. But when you come away from a hard match, like I know we beat Donegal, but I'd a good tussle on the day and when you go away from that you can learn things, where can I improve and various things like that, You can't buy that at training, you can't buy that at club level, because of the standard I suppose is a bit down compared to the championship game and that's the biggest thing. Do I feel like I'm in good form? I feel that I'm coming into it, but you have to prove that on the biggest stage in Croke Park.” It's all about getting the head up to speed with the body in those all important small areas that makes the difference he believes. “The head rules the rest of it, the self-confidence is the key. When you feel you can win a ball and get a goal, that's the key thing, the body will follow the head. Once that happens you, you're in a good place. I feel like I'm getting there.”
It was a matter of small gains early on in his recovery from injury, but from now on it's all about being ready to go from the off. “The return to play is the hard part. It's all small little gains since last September on, it's been small gain here and small gain and then all of a sudden you've to come back into and play and twist and turn and win ball and you've to tell the boys who are playing against you, don't be minding you, will yah give me a hit, small little things like that. We're over the now and it's all hands to the pump at this stage.”
There's one thing that you can take for granted is that come Sunday, Andy Moran will be using all those small gains he's built up to give him the big push he's looking for to stamp his authority all over the Tyrone challenge.