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Dublin: 4 °C Thursday 27 February, 2020

'Football was way too important to me. When I was a young buck football was everything'

Andy Moran explains his positive mindset and describes how becoming a father helped him on the football field.

ANDY MORAN ALLOWS his mind wander when he imagines what it would be like if Mayo actually won the All-Ireland.

“I’d say it would be quite similar to the likes of Armagh (in 2002), Clare in the 1990s in the hurling,” he reckons.

Andy Moran celebrates with Barry Moran and Donal Vaughan Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

“If we won an All-Ireland in September, Mayo people would be giving out about something in October. It’s football, it’s an addiction, it’s what they love.

“We’re a bit mad. It’s a nice way to be. But it would be a great couple of weeks.”

But you won’t catch Moran dreaming of September success anytime soon. Division 1 finalists Galway present a serious challenge in the Connacht opener on 13 May, especially since the Tribesmen have dumped Mayo out of the province in the last two seasons.

The losers of next month’s provincial semi-final will face a heavy schedule of games to make it back to the All-Ireland semi-final.

“It’s a big game, it’s a huge game, let’s call a spade a spade,” Moran says at the launch of Kellogg’s GAA Cúl Camps.

“If you watch Galway compared to the team that played Kerry last year, 100% they’ve come on. They are a very physical team, they like to get stuck in.

Tempers flare in the closing stages Mayo and Galway clash during their recent league encounter. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“It’s the same core group of players that we played last year in Salthill, and we’ll probably have the same core group as well, bar one or two. It should be a really exciting game.

“To me, the proper route to go through is the front door. If it doesn’t happen, you just deal with it and move on.”

Mayo sealed survival in the top flight of the league for another season two weeks ago thanks to a dramatic equalising point against Donegal from the boot of Kevin McLoughlin. With key men Cillian O’Connor and Lee Keegan both absent through injury, the result gave the group a huge lift after a testing spring campaign.

“If you’re honest about it, we really did target that game. That game was a huge target for us six weeks before.

“It became a bigger target when we lost Cillian and Lee, and we had a few others. Keith wasn’t back, Chris Barrett and Brendan Harrison weren’t back and so on and so forth.

“It became a huge game. The key for us was to stay in the game, to stay alive. We always thought that we would get a chance.

“Did we think it would be the last kick of the game? No, we didn’t but to get the draw up there was a huge psychological boost.”

Keith Higgins and Andy Moran lifts the trophy Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The return of Keith Higgins to the squad has been another boost for Stephen Rochford, while Moran believes former AFL player Cian Hanley could have a role to play in the summer.

“Brilliant,” he said of Higgins’ return. “You’ll never get too much out of Keith Higgins, he’s a quiet sort of guy but we were always expecting him back. But it was a massive relief when you see him walking through the door.

“Not only that, but he’d be one of your best mates on the team. What people don’t realise about Keith Higgins is he’s just a really good fella and a really good team-mate. He gives fellas huge confidence when he’s around the place and not having him for the national league; we knew the benefit of it.

“We knew he would go away and to probably his first love in hurling, and we were happy to see him back.

“Cian has played for my club in Ballaghadereen and he played the last two games. He was a bit ring-rusty against Ballinrobe two weeks ago and played last week for us and played well, and is looking forward to the championship this week.

“Hopefully he’ll bring an extra dimension to us. He’s training away (with Mayo) and is doing quite well.”

Cian Hanley and Martin Flannery Cian Hanley in action with Mayo minors in 2014 Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

In addition, Caolan Crowe, Eoin O’Donoghue and Conor Loftus put their hands up for championship selection with impressive league campaigns.

“I think of course the natural positive is you look at it and all of a sudden you have two young players, but if you see the development of Eoin O’Donoghue in the last three years and the commitment he has put into lifting his weights and getting himself strong enough.

“There’s no doubt Eoin always had the talent. But to put that commitment in to get his weights lifted and get himself strong enough and get himself to the kilos he needs to be at to compete with the likes of Paddy McBrearty and these guys – that’s where the confidence comes from.

“Conor Loftus had huge injury problems over the course of his career and he’s only 22. To come in and have the cojones to come on against Kerry and do what he did and then come on up in Donegal in a real pressure situation and kick six points – I think it just gives the group lots of confidence.

“Similar to that, Caolan Crowe who is a bit older but wouldn’t have that experience has had a brilliant league campaign without getting the plaudits that Eoin has got. Again, he’s been a two or three year project and it’s great to see.”

Mayo's Andy Moran celebrates after scoring a goal Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Moran is naturally an infectious character and his former Sligo IT team-mate Eamon McGee once described him as one of the most positive people he ever met.

After coming agonizingly close to the big prize on several occasions, how does he keep such an enthusiastic outlook on life?

“I am no different than anyone else,” says Moran. “Negative things happen. But I genuinely live my life in a way that, if you do the best you can and you still lose, you actually can’t do anymore.

“We go to Dublin, we play in the All-Ireland final, we do the best we can. Of course, there were some mistakes and of course, there was some brilliant play. But we get from 17 points to 19 points, there’s progression there. We are coming up against a really, really good team and sure, what more can you do?

“I think I probably only got that sense of perspective later on in my 20s, started getting hurt and started having kids and stuff like that but that is genuinely my view of the world. It makes it very easy for me. The days, back in the day, when I didn’t think we were doing enough, in 2005 and possibly 2006, 2010, stuff like that, they weren’t always nice places.

“I think my little girl (Charlotte) gave me an awful lot of perspective on, just everything really, in terms of…football was way too important to me. When I was a young buck football was everything to me.

Andy Moran Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“Then my little girl came along and it just kind of softened me a tiny bit. When I got home I could actually switch off because you had someone pulling and dragging out of you and you had to go and play with them and it’s just really helped me.”

And he’ll keep going as long as the body allows.

“I’ll play for as long as I can. We had a second child (Ollie) there 13 weeks ago and I’m telling you that’s testing it.

“But it’s nothing to do with the football side of it. The home side now at the minute is crazily busy and having a wife that’s patient enough to let you is massive. But it’s something I love.

“More importantly it’s something my wife loves. She’s been involved in football as long as I’ve been involved, so it’s great. If you’ve the support at home, why not?

“I’m 35 in November and I know my time is limited playing for Mayo and I’m going to try and use every second of it.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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