All-Ireland quest keeps Moloney at the coalface
HOW do champions come back year after year with the same motivation?
That's the obvious question to ask any Dr Crokes player, given that the Killarney men are contesting their fourth consecutive Munster final tomorrow and looking to do a three in a row that only Nemo Rangers have ever achieved in the province.
It's certainly the obvious one to ask veteran David Moloney, father to 10-month-old Erica and a busy electrician who does night shifts.
Turns out 'Melon' (everyone in Crokes has a nickname, not just Gooch) is not your average 36-year-old footballer, not least thanks to his dual personalities on the pitch.
The Kingdom's current club superpower head to Limerick tomorrow – and the last time he played there he was in goals for Kerry when they beat Laois in the All-Ireland U-21 final in 1998.
Yet for Dr Crokes he has long been an outfield player, playing full-forward and lamping in goals back in 2007 to help them reach the All-Ireland club final.
He scored one and earned a penalty which Colm Cooper squandered when they lost to Crossmaglen in that famous replay. So how come he's between their sticks now?
"Long story!" he chuckles, confirming that, before he retired in 2009, he was still partnering Eoin Brosnan in midfield or up beyond at No 14.
Sorry, did you say retired?
"Yeah but we were short a goalkeeper last summer for our first-round game against St Michael's Foilmore. Our regular No 1 Alan Kelly was going to Poland to the European Championships and our sub goalie had broken a bone in his foot.
"When Vince (Casey) and Noel (O'Leary) approached me I hadn't played in goals for 14 years, so I took a bit of convincing, but they persuaded me it was just for the one game."
You're there since, so how did that go down with the previous incumbent?
More chuckles. "I work with his brother, what can you do!"
Back in the day, during the late Páidí ó Sé's management, Moloney was in and out of the Kerry senior panel for two seasons but as a forward.
It was former club manager Harry O'Neill who initially persuaded him outfield, so he still ribs him that "you cost me five All-Ireland medals!"
Given Crokes' stellar forwards, he is grateful not to have to do a Cluxton and saunter up for the '45s' since coming out of retirement.
"I don't think I'm fit enough, I'd need a golf cart to get back in time!"
But, all joking aside, everyone in the club appreciates what Moloney's goalkeeping prowess and big kick-outs have brought to their armoury.
And, though he turns 37 in May, he is arguably more enthusiastic than any of them because this is only his third Munster final.
He was a spectator when they lost to Nemo in 2010 and again in 2011 when Daithi Casey and Johnny Buckley found themselves playing against their UCC team-mates.
Crokes find themselves facing Cratloe this time and are raging favourites, which makes him particularly wary.
"They have eight All-Ireland-winning hurlers which means they must be in great shape for a start, and Clare teams have always been very strong in Munster club football," he notes.
"Our hardest game in Munster last year was probably the first round against Kilmurry-Ibrickane, who we only beat by a point.
"What keeps us going? Same as every footballer, the quest to win the one you haven't got.
"The club still hasn't won the All-Ireland since 1992. We lost to Crossmaglen in 2007 and should have won it the first day, and that semi-final to Ballymun last year hurt.
"Every year you set out to win your county championship and then see where it takes you, and winning a Munster title is a huge thing for any player.
"Ask anyone who plays football and they'll tell you how much they enjoy it, that's why we keep doing it. Look at the Gooch, all the football he's played and he still loves it.
"People forget we lost three Kerry finals to South Kerry in 2005, '06 and '09.
"I've had six knee operations (cartilage) and played in that 2009 county final with two broken ribs and after that I said 'never again!' but I found it hard to watch football and listen to fellas talking about it. Nothing beats playing it, especially with fellas you grew up with."