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Dublin: 14°C Friday 18 September 2020

'My seven-year-old wears socks up to the knee because that's Andy Moran's trademark'

Ballaghaderreen’s Con Moynihan discusses Moran’s impact on the club and his own collection of over 1,200 GAA match programmes.

Former Footballer of the Year Andy Moran.
Former Footballer of the Year Andy Moran.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

A LITTLE AFTER 8.30pm tomorrow night, Andy Moran and a group of Ballaghaderreen veterans will be hoping to lift the Paddy Moclair Cup for the third time in their careers.

It would be a remarkable achievement considering the Mayo/Roscommon border club only had one senior football title to their name prior to the arrival of Moran, Peter Kelly, Drake brothers David and Stephen, and Barry Regan on the scene.

There was a 36-year gap between their successes in 1972 and 2008 and the club’s health and wellbeing officer Con Moynihan still has the match programme from their maiden victory. 

Moynihan jokes that his own playing career was “cruelly ended by a lack of talent” in his early 20s but he is something of a fanatic when it comes to collecting match programmes and estimates he has over 1,200 piled up at this stage.

“They’re in a box in my grandfather’s house next door,” he tells The42. “I’d have a lot of programmes going back from the ’60s to the present day. 

“My grandmother would have given me a box of old programmes and my grandfather’s relations in Tipperary originally, he would have had send up a box of programmes back in the mid-80s which would have had a lot of All-Ireland programmes from the ’60s.

“It just happened to balloon from there. If you go to a match, it’s something to have. At the moment I’m chairman of Mayo Board na nÓg and I spend a lot of my time doing up programmes for underage games. You can look back and reflect on them. 

“It’s a hobby as well as anything else and you get some great nuggets.

“We have the 1980 one from our pitch opening. Our own club played that day and there’s a couple from Castlerea St Kevin’s they used to have a Sevens tournament. Ballaghaderreen would have played in that for a couple of years in the ’70s.

“You’d see with other clubs they had brilliant Mayo players, Roscommon players and Galway players playing. Those sort of things. The big occasion ones you’d look back on. My uncle would have won a minor title in 1971 and 1974 and I have the 1971 programme so that’s a special one as well. 

“The ’72 one is a really special one as well. It’ll be 50 years now in 2022. We’ll have a celebration for those lads and the 2012 team. It’ll be a nice one and hopefully we’ll have another one to celebrate on Saturday.

“A lot of our lads are conscious of the history of the club as well which is a brilliant thing to have because that was bred into us.”

the-ballaghaderreen-team-celebrate The Ballaghaderreen team celebrate their 2012 Mayo SFC success. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Moynihan’s favourite memory from his involvement in the club was their 2008 county final win over Charlestown Sarsfields.

“In ’08 it was more a sense of relief to get over the line because we’d been close in ’06 in probably one of the best games ever played against Crossmolina in the drawn game and then we lost the replay.

“In ’07 an inspirational David Brady performance for Ballina beat us in the semi-final. So ’08, I’ll never forget the relief that day of actually crossing the line.”

The 2008 win was the only full campaign they had Pearce Hanley in their ranks before he departed for a successful AFL career in Australia.

His younger brother Cian spent three years with the Brisbane Lions before he returned home last year, something which has been “a huge boost” for the club.

“It’s his attitude,” says Moynihan. “When Cian came back, he added to that as well because he’s of a much younger age. He has that work-rate, professionalism and attitude towards training, diet, lifestyle and more than anything else, his commitment and hard work.

“In every game he’s playing better football, he’s improving. It’s a continuous quest for him as well to work harder all the time. You can see that reflected on the pitch and that’s an added bonus.” 

Hanley has been in a good run of form at centre-forward while flying wing-back Sharoize Akram is another man with recent experience on the Mayo senior panel.

cian-hanley-and-johnny-heaney Cian Hanley in action against Galway in the 2018 Connacht SFC quarter-final. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

In addition to up-and-coming youngsters Dan McBrien and Kuba Callaghan, both of whom were part of the Mayo U20 squad this year, there’s plenty of positivity about the future in Ballaghaderreen.

But no man is more important to the team – or the club – than their 36-year-old leader Andy Moran.

“Andy is the spiritual leader of the team and his attitude and work-rate is really what sets the bar for the rest of the players,” says Moynihan. 

He missed out on their last appearance in the Mayo SFC decider seven years ago after tearing his cruciate in the All-Ireland quarter-final against Down that year. 

“In ’12 he got injured on the Bank Holiday weekend against Down. We were lucky at that stage we had a group of mature players who were able to lift themselves up and win it. 

“We got to a Connacht final that year and if we had Andy it might have finished differently,” he admits. 

Despite his advancing years Moran is the ace in Ballagh’s pack and remains the central figure in their attack.

“He’s so grounded,” he says of the former Footballer of the Year. “I’ve a seven-year-old who wears the socks up to the knee because that’s what Andy’s trademark is.

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“If we were doing underage training on a Tuesday evening and Ballagh (seniors) were training at the same time, Andy would come over to the group of U6s and U8s for 10 minutes beforehand just asking them how they are and sort of thing.

“He gives a lift to the entire club. It’s the same with his business and his career, it’s that continuing pursuit of excellence and his enthusiasm. Even from lads in with Mayo, he loves training, he loves the dressing room.

“He’s in love with football and that enthusiasm it can’t help but rub off on everyone. And his ability to bring players into a game. For our younger players it’s been absolutely massive to have him around, last year and this year especially.

“He’s still playing as good as he ever was. It’s a huge boost to have a player of his calibre.”

They face holders Ballintubber who are chasing their fifth title since 2010 and one that contains the O’Connor brothers Cillian and Diarmuid.

stephen-omalley-with-ger-mcdonagh Cillian O'Connor is Ballintubber's star forward. Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

“Ballintubber are probably the team of the decade in Mayo with four titles. The players would know most of them. A lot of these lads have played together for Mayo so it will be a huge clash.”

Excitement levels have reached fever pitch and Saturday night’s game isn’t the only showdown between both clubs tomorrow. 

“Our U13s are in a county final against Ballintubber as well, they’re playing on Saturday morning. There’s a connection there between the younger players and the senior players. 

“We have two finals on the one day so that increases it. The young people generate a great buzz for the rest of us. In the town itself because it’s been seven years you could see it building as the week went on. 

“The shops and houses are done up there’s a great buzz around the place. Lads have been putting up flags and bunting all week. The schools are obsessed with it now at this stage. 

“From being around the county this week in Mayo, people are expecting a real good game and a real heavyweight battle.

“So I hope it lives up to the expectations and I just have a funny feeling it will and I hope we’re the right side of it.”

  • Mayo SFC final: Ballaghaderreen v Ballintubber, MacHale Park, Saturday, 7pm – live on Mayo GAA TV

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Kevin O'Brien

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