Andy Moran finds calm in eye of storm
Mayo's inspirational force at peace with blows of past – but lifting Sam is dream he's always kept alive
These weeks Andy Moran plots his path through work very carefully.
He knows the spots to pick where he can enjoy a fair degree of anonymity. He recently took up employment as a sales representative with iMed Healthcare, having spent a year with the Mayo/Roscommon Hospice.
The change suited what he refers to as "the principal" in his life. If it didn't suit football, it couldn't suit Andy.
"(The hospice) was a great job, really brilliant, and I loved it, but I did the year with them and I suppose the lifestyle just didn't really suit. I was out a lot at night, and then having to go football training at 6.0 in the morning; it just didn't suit it," he reflected.
So he'll have choreographed his route in to generate sales through hurling country this week. With a nice tight haircut, the name and the face might not ring too many bells.
"Coming up to a game, you hit the big hurling counties. Tipperary, Clare, places they wouldn't recognise you. You get the head shaved as well. I was actually in Tipperary last week walking into pharmacies and no one had a clue who I was."
Around Mayo and the west he could never wear such a cloak. There are few more popular players in the county and even as he struggles to regain the form that made him their stand-out player for a three to four-year spell prior to tearing his cruciate ligament last summer, there is no sense of impatience towards the captain.
Moran has earned time. A player who wears his heart on his sleeve as he does holds that place among supporters. Last year he was the one to put on a brave face and declare that this Mayo team would win an All-Ireland title in the future at their hotel on the Monday morning after the All-Ireland final defeat.
"I had to show the face, things like that, but post-final was the lowest I've ever been after a football match," he recalled.
Missing the All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin was "emotional" because it was his first time not to feature for Mayo in a championship match for seven years. But he always has the 2006 All-Ireland semi-final between them to savour, when his goal, not long after his introduction, turned the game in their favour.
"The great thing was getting to play with two of the most exceptional players that ever played for Mayo, Kevin O'Neill and Ciaran McDonald – two absolute geniuses," he said. "It was great to see them in Croke Park at the peak of their powers."
As he prepared to get into the action, Moran is reputed to have vowed to then Mayo manager Mickey Moran that he would get him a goal.
"It is a true story. Did I really think I'd score a goal? I think I spotted an opportunity in the Dublin game, but I was just mad to get on, just being a bit selfish," he said.
"I came of for James Nallen, marked Kevin Bonner, so I wasn't sure if I was wing-back or centre-back at the time. But I played a lot of underage football as a defender."
He reflects on that "mad" opening 10 minutes of last year's final and draws the conclusion that it was "little things" that went against them. Thus the emphasis now on a good start.
"The first 10 minutes are going to be crucial. But there are four crucial periods: before half-time, after half-time and the start and the finish," he reflected.
"But it's a moment of brilliance, like Michael Murphy last year, little things like Cillian (O'Connor) getting pulled up for diving in the corner. I never knew diving was a foul in modern football. It was the first time I've seen anyone get a free given against them for diving.
"They go up the pitch, hit the post, the ball comes down, and Colm McFadden finishes.
"You legislate for little things but you can't legislate for everything. Mad things happen in a game, and fingers crossed we're on the right side of them this time."
That said, Moran concedes that Mayo haven't been good enough to win any of the three All-Ireland finals he has contested in a 10-year span.
"The other finals we lost, especially in 2004, and 2006, we weren't good enough. Last year they scored 2-1 in the first 10 minutes and we never clawed back that difference. So the best team won on the day. If we play our best, with our skills and fitness up to the level they have to be at, we've a great chance."
Moran is backing O'Connor to play an important role on Sunday and has earmarked him to be a future Mayo captain.
"His mentality is unreal for a young fella. I've said it before, maybe last year, that I think he will be Mayo captain some day, for quite a long stretch.
"I would put nothing past him, and I think he has got a really good chance, just because of who he is. He comes from that kind of family. There are four or five of them that have all played for Mayo. An extraordinary family, and you just never know what he could do.
"The great thing is he can run, can do the ball work. If he wins the physical battle then he will be able to play. He's in a way better situation than if he pulled his hamstring."