AHEAD of one of the toughest weeks of his life Andy Moran (28) still wears a broad grin and races about like a Duracell bunny, despite travelling on crutches.
A cruciate injury in the quarter-final and subsequent surgery has left Mayo's 'little general' at a heartbreaking remove ahead of this All-Ireland final.
Yet their indefatigable captain remains at the heart of his team, his spirit unquenched.
Moran's stoicism is not surprising, for he has always had remarkably little of the diva about him.
Three years ago, when Mayo left Longford with their tails between their legs, he steeled himself for whatever cull a new management might bring. "If James (Horan) had come in and said 'I want to clear all the old fellas', I'd have said 'fair enough, best of luck.' Fortunately, I got the call to come back in and it was probably the best phonecall of my career," he says.
Injury may deprive him of this great occasion, but a killer line in self-deprecation helps cushion the blow. Talking about Mayo's midfield, Moran (below) quips: "I was always told you can't teach size and speed -- and I've neither of them!"
No one would blame him for acting like a jilted bride this week, yet he puts on a remarkably brave face.
"The real hurting was before the semi-final," he concedes. "I'd a few dark nights then alright where I was feeling sorry for myself but look, there's a lot of people worse off than me.
"The fact the team still needs you and that James still wants you around the place, that was a great positive for me.
"I was at training last night and I'll be there again all week and, in some ways, I'm one of the lucky ones.
"We have good friends -- the likes of Trevor Mort-imer, Trevor Howley, Tom Cunniffe and so on -- who were part of the panel and had to emigrate for different reasons, but I'm still here.
"If we get over the line on Sunday, I'll be with the cup wherever it's going and I'll have my All-Ireland medal. I'll be the happiest man in the country."
You don't doubt that, because Moran's boundless energy and positivity has always been a tonic while many in Mayo wallowed in their 'House of Pain' history.
Asked now about the 2006 final, he is unequivocal: "We weren't good enough, simple as that. The same in 2004," he insists. "Kerry didn't have Darragh O Se or Seamus Moynihan (he came off the bench) that day and we didn't beat them. If we were good enough, we'd have won it.
"Look, the best team in Ireland next Sunday will win it. Everyone is on about tactics but it's the team that plays the best level of football and sticks to their game plan best, that's who'll win it," he reasons.
It has been a tough year for the Ballaghaderreen star, who played soccer for Longford against Shamrock Rovers the night before his first Mayo senior training session under John Maughan.
He hadn't missed a game since 2006 until a broken foot last winter, and now the knee, broke his service this season.
He says Mayo should have no worries about conceding most of the 10-point lead to Dublin in the semi. "We'd about three blood-subs around the same time and it coincided with an awful lot of changes so we were unlucky."
Compared to 2006, the hype is a lot lower, partly because Donegal are such favourites.
"Donegal have beaten the two best teams of the last seven or eight years (in Cork and Kerry). But I don't think they should be out-and-out favourites, they probably deserve to be slight favourites.
"But can we beat them on any given day? Can they beat us?" Moran challenges with a grin.
"If you ask me this is a 50-50 game."