'No one wants to be a one-hit wonder' says Kerry's David Moran
Moran finally got the chance to deliver on his potential in 2014 - but he's only getting started
There must have been days when David Moran felt like it wasn't worth it. That no matter where he turned there were obstacles. And despite all his natural and much-vaunted talent, he just wasn't going to get a clear run at it.
Perhaps at that stage, a famous name and dodgy knees might have become too much to be bothering with any more. Maybe there were things in life other than football that should be explored.
Moran's story is pockmarked with setbacks and even when he got his chance it wasn't straightforward. He lasted just 23 minutes of Kerry's championship opener in Ennis last year. Shane McGrath, a Dub who had thrown his lot in with Clare, was the best player on show for long periods.
By the time, Moran was fish-hooked by Eamonn Fitzmaurice, McGrath had struck for 1-2. Maybe at that stage he was wondering about himself and if it would ever come right. Maybe some in Kerry were wondering about him too.
The road back had been cruel. Two cruciate knee ligament injuries and a detached retina meant he missed the guts of three years. The second knee injury came just ten months after the first, then his eye gave bother after he picked up a freak bang in a challenge against Laois.
At that point, playing for Kerry seemed further away than ever. The crucial development years of 22 to 25 were robbed from him and all of that after a promising start to his career. He came on in the All-Ireland final in 2008 and was lumped into a full-forward line alongside Kieran Donaghy and his good friend Tommy Walsh.
A year later, they went one better and won the thing to get him up and running as a Kerry footballer. The AFL came calling at that stage. All was well. Indeed had things worked out differently, he might have stayed over there.
"In 2008, after we lost to Tyrone, the two of us were meant to go over to St Kilda but I didn't go because I had exams," Moran explained.
"Tommy went out and they saw him and saw what shape he was in, so I think he had signed before he went out in 2009. I went out then in 2009, I was kind of on trial and he wasn't so I went out and gave it three weeks,
"I wasn't good enough and didn't get a contract so I came back. No regrets, I really enjoyed it."
He would have taken a contract had it come his way. Instead he came home and played in a Munster club final with Kerins O'Rahillys. He kicked eight wides and they lost by a point.
Things went quiet then before the injuries kicked in. From April 2011 to August 2013, he didn't so much as feel a Kerry jersey in any meaningful way.
Last year saw him get a clear run at things but the Clare game went south. After that he didn't start the Munster final or the All-Ireland quarter-final. He played in the draw against Mayo before producing a performance for the ages in the replay.
Forty-seven possession and nine clean wins from kick-outs, Moran had finally arrived. Amazingly for a player who had been around since the 2008 campaign, the epic in Limerick was just his fifth championship start.
Kerry went on to win the All-Ireland, beating Donegal in the final, prompting a memorable photo of Moran with his family including eight-time All-Ireland-winning father Denis 'Ogie' Moran.
"I'd say my father had phantom pains when I had the knee injuries! I think families go through so much. It was great for me to be playing.
"But I think all the families go through it just as much, it's even harder, they're looking through their fingers above in the stand.
"So look I think we all win together, we all lose together."
Darragh ó Sé spoke afterwards about how Moran had more ability than either he or another legendary Kerry midfielder Jack O'Shea ever had. The Kingdom's success meant they had secured Sam Maguire for the first time since ó Sé had left a gaping hole in their midfield. The comparisons with the An Ghaeltacht man were inevitable.
"Obviously it's a huge honour to be in that company but I've a long way to go to be in that kind of company," Moran mused.
"I also think, look, it's a team game. Even midfield, for the last few games it's been myself and Anthony (Maher) that have done well but hasn't just been me and it hasn't just been him.
"I suppose I'm just going to keep the head down."
The now 27-year-old has quickly become a linchpin in the Kerry side. His black card against Cork in the drawn game, and how things panned out thereafter, underlined his importance to Fitzmaurice.
Against Tyrone, he'll be given a different type of test.
"Whatever about their defensive system, they haven't got enough credit for some of the footballers that they have," he said.
"Not only do they have a very good U-21 team, fellas who are very capable and skilful, they also have fellas like Seán Cavanagh who have been there, done that at the highest level for years.
"I think there's a lot of talk about their defensive structure. They have a lot of really, really good footballers.
"I remember when I first came in marking Kevin Hughes, thinking, 'This is a different ball game altogether, welcome to senior football'."
There have been some lonely days and hard roads and plenty of time lost. But perhaps that what helps him appreciate every moment all the more.
Now that he's here, he wants more. There are two medals now but last year's has to be more special. Still two medals don't make a collection.
"He wants to show there is more to come than just last year's late summer show.
"No one wants to be a one-hit wonder."