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Andy Moran's preparation similar to a 'boxer or UFC fighter - the way he diets, the way he trains'

Conor Mortimer chats about veterans Moran and Stephen Cluxton ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland football final.

THEY KEEP TELLING us that inter-county football is a young man’s game.

And while that’s largely true, Sunday’s All-Ireland final will feature two men who are exceptions to the rule.

Stephen Cluxton with Andy Moran Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Andy Moran (33) and Stephen Cluxton (35) continue to rage against the dying of the light and both will play key roles as their respective counties tussle for Gaelic football’s big prize.

Nobody in Mayo has made more championship outings than Andy Moran’s 71, while Stephen Cluxton stands alone on top of the game with 90 appearances.

Conor Mortimer might be the only man who’s lined out with both Moran and Cluxton.

He soldiered in the green and red with Moran between 2004 and 2012, while a move to Dublin club Parnells in the winter of 2011 meant he lined out alongside Cluxton for four seasons until he transferred back to his home club last year.

Cluxton turns 36 on Sunday and he has the chance to mark his birthday by becoming the first player to captain four All-Ireland winning teams. It’s a feat that may never be matched.

“Even to be three times as he is I think it’s a serious feat for a goalkeeper,” says Mortimer.

Stephen Cluxton Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“It just shows the belief that the managers have had in him I think really. You know, a lot of the stuff that Clucko would be good at would be behind closed doors. He doesn’t obviously talk to the media too often.

“His leadership skills, his attention to training. I think the way the game has gone has suited him because he has influence on the game with his kickouts, whereas 10 years ago you are a goalkeeper and you kick it out long

“Whereas now, you will see all the guys saying he’s an integral part of what Dublin do and when Dublin are good he tends to be good.”

Mortimer doesn’t feel Cluxton will play into his 40s but can’t see him walking away anytime soon either.

“As long as he thinks that Dublin are going to be competitive, you’ll see him playing. I don’t think there are too many goalkeepers in Dublin that are at his level just yet.

He adds: “He’ll train as hard as any of the outfield players. He’s not a goalkeeper who just goes to training, tips away and goes home. He works incredibly hard. I think you’ll see another two or three years out of him, but 40s I’d be surprised to be honest.”

Andy Moran takes to the field Source: James Crombie/INPHO

If anything, Moran’s longevity is even more impressive. He’s been beaten in five All-Ireland finals since he came on the scene, while a torn cruciate aged 28 in 2012 threatened to jeopardise his career.

Moran returned the following year but was reduced to the role of an impact substitute as he entered into his 30s. Now aged 33, Moran arrives into another All-Ireland final as the central figure in Stephen Rochford’s attack.

He scored 2-6 in the semi-final and replay against Kerry, leaving him as the Mayo’s frontrunner to win Footballer of the Year. It’s been his best season in a Mayo jersey.

“I’ve said it numerous times in relation to Andy’s preparation and stuff; it would be different to everyone else’s,” says Mortimer.

“It would be (like a) professional boxer or professional UFC fighter – the way he diets, the way he trains and you periodise your week and your days and when exactly to be eating, training and stuff like that.

“It’s credit to him and what he’s done, he has given himself the best chance to be in that form. He doesn’t just go to training and tip away and go off and do whatever he does from day to day. He’s probably the 24-hour athlete really.

Joe McQuillan awards Mayo a penalty Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“He lives for playing for Mayo, he lives for being successful and wearing the jersey, representing the jersey. And he has been like that since he came into the panel, going back 12, 14 years ago now. It is just what he loves to do.”

In 2015, Moran left his job as a sales representative to open up a gym in Castlebar. He’s on the record in saying that the change in career path helped prolong his playing days by cutting out long car journeys and allowing him to plan his work around training and recovery.

“He runs a gym down in Castlebar and it gives him time to put all his effort into being the best player he can be,” says Mortimer, who runs a gym in the capital himself.

“It is the kind of a job, when you run your own and it is successful, you can be in at six in the morning til 12, go off and do what you have do in the gym in the afternoon, can go off to training, and come back to the gym for an hour.

Paddy Power GAA Ambassador Conor Mortimer  04 Paddy Power GAA ambassador Conor Mortimer pictured at this week’s event. The former All-Star will contribute a series of exclusive columns to the Paddy Power Blog in which he’ll candidly discuss tactics and key matches. Source: lorraineosullivan

“It is a flexible job if you have good staff. I know David Drake is working down there, Neil Douglas too, (both) Mayo players as well. I think it works, it is a good job to be in if you need time to be training, need a lot of free time.

“In fairness this year, whilst surprising to some people no doubt, to myself and people who know him from the inside, it’s not.

“If Mayo are to go on and win the game, this will be an accumulation of all the hard work, all the dedication towards his goal. And I, for one, hopes he has a big game for us because if we are to win, he will have to.”

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