Thursday 21 November 2019

'Everyone was coming up saying, 'Oh you let it slip the first day'' - David Moran's All-Ireland final regrets

Midfield dynamo Moran says every aspect of Kerry’s game must improve if they want to go one better next year

Kerry footballer David Moran from Kerins O’Rahilly GAA club in Tralee and a partner at Casey & Co. Accountants, Tralee Co Kerry. Photo: Domnick Walsh © Eye Focus LTD - www.dwalshphoto.ie
Kerry footballer David Moran from Kerins O’Rahilly GAA club in Tralee and a partner at Casey & Co. Accountants, Tralee Co Kerry. Photo: Domnick Walsh © Eye Focus LTD - www.dwalshphoto.ie
Sinead Kissane

Sinead Kissane

It’s a rainy November afternoon in Tralee town and locals are in a rush to be somewhere else. Halloween’s over. The kids are back in school. The Christmas street lights are up but aren’t turned on.

The drift of this town can be viewed from an upstairs window where David Moran works as an accountant on Denny Street.

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The degree of separation to Kerry football from his office is marginal. A few buildings down on Denny Street is where Darragh Ó Sé works, further down is Eoin Liston, while Seán Walsh works around the corner. “I’m out of my depth a bit here,” Moran smiles.

Working in the middle of town brings obvious advantages and drawbacks, like those days in September between a drawn All Ireland final and a replay with Dublin.

Walk the streets and you run the risk of having opinion delivered via the old-fashioned face-to-face way about how Kerry blew their chance in the drawn game.

"Everyone was coming up to you saying, ‘Oh you let it slip the first day’, which is really a kick in the teeth," Moran says, with hindsight offering him a truth he didn’t want to face.

14 September 2019; David Moran of Kerry is tackled by Brian Fenton of Dublin during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final Replay between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
14 September 2019; David Moran of Kerry is tackled by Brian Fenton of Dublin during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final Replay between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

"I’d a turnover there at one stage that led to the point at the end (of the drawn All-Ireland final) so obviously I was going in the back of my mind, 'You're dead right but I don't want to believe it'."

Moran hasn't watched the recording of the All-Ireland final replay. Maybe he doesn’t need to yet because it’s been on loop in his head at times since.

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Usually after an All-Ireland final, the losing team has one game to torment themselves with. Kerry have two games to rake over for the winter.

"Obviously, you’re just devastated. I came back to work on the Thursday (after the replay), you feel like a zombie for a few days," recalls Moran as he leans over on the desk.

"You’re always thinking about what might have been because you’ve two games to be playing in your head and there’s always five or six things in a game that you can think back on and say, ‘Look, if I did that differently would it have made a difference?’

"Replays are always looking back with ‘if I did this, if I did that’ and just kind of tormenting yourself."

Moran won his second All-Star last weekend. He had a stand-out championship including giving an exhibition in fielding and lessons in the art and accuracy of the foot-pass.

But there are other decisive moments in the finals with Dublin which he brings up in conversation himself. Like the turn-over in the 74th minute of the drawn game which resulted in Dean Rock scoring the equalising point. Like his tap-down from throw-in for the second half of the replay which fell into the arms of Eoin Murchan who sped away to score the killer goal.

Dubs’ Eoin goal: Dublin defender Eoin Murchan fires to the net as Kerry pair David Moran (No 8) and Tom O’Sullivan look on along with Con O’Callaghan. Photo: Sportsfile
Dubs’ Eoin goal: Dublin defender Eoin Murchan fires to the net as Kerry pair David Moran (No 8) and Tom O’Sullivan look on along with Con O’Callaghan. Photo: Sportsfile

"I thought there was someone coming from behind me so I tried to punch it towards Seánie (O’Shea) or someone," Moran says, shaking his head.

How do you recover from a setback like that Murchan goal?

"I suppose you’re just thinking, ok I need to try and make up for it – not make up for it – just forget about it. I think Tiger Woods had something – he picked a line on the fairway after a bad shot and once you walk past that line it was done, something like that," he said.

"Obviously your system gets a rattle, it was very early in the second half so we had plenty of time. But, unfortunately, we didn’t get there."

There are plenty of could haves, should haves, would haves to unpack from both games for Kerry. Was there a change in approach when they led by a point going into added time in the drawn game?

"Maybe a little bit. We stopped kicking it. You’re out on your feet, you’re trying to think clearly (but) absolutely fatigued. Someone in the stand is looking and saying, 'How can you do that?' But it doesn’t work like that when you're in the middle of it."

And desperation comes out in different ways. When Rock had a chance to win it in the drawn game with a free, Tommy Walsh stood behind Moran under the posts and got ready to lift him if needed. Was this something they discussed beforehand?

"I don’t think so. I just think that you’re desperate, you’d try anything. I think everyone was thinking, ‘What can we do here?'"

In the end, they didn’t require that piece of innovation. But in the aftermath of the replay loss, the question of 'should Tommy have started?' was near the top of the pile of regrets in Kerry. Walsh is a life-long friend of Moran’s and was one of his groomsmen at his wedding last year.

"You could argue both sides. You can’t really sit back and say if we had done this we would have won. It’s impossible to know," Moran says.

"I think he (Walsh) would probably feel a lot better after this Kerry season than he would have since 2009 in terms of his contribution. He’s certainly a guy that a lot of the young lads go to more than me because he’s experienced both in Kerry and Australia."

It would be easy to assume that this defeat – with Dublin achieving the historic five-in-a-row and Moran's dad, Ogie, part of the Kerry team who nearly did it in 1982 – would be the toughest to take. Moran’s not so sure.

"I probably may have felt worse after the Kildare game last year – not coming out of the Super 8s, in one sense. We found last year very difficult with Eamonn (Fitzmaurice) finishing," he said.

"My first final was 2008, I was very young, and ’15 was probably worse because I was captain on the day (captain for the year, Kieran Donaghy, started on the bench). They’re all as bad as each other."

In the build-up to September’s final, former Kerry captain Darran O’Sullivan called Moran "the de facto captain" of this Kerry team.

The county remains tied to the tradition that the county champions nominate the Kerry captain but Moran believes the manager should make the choice.

"It’s easy for me to say that as a senior player but I just think that if I retired in the morning and we (Kerins O’Rahillys) won the county championship, I still think that Peter (Keane) should decide," Moran states.

"Usually it’s never a big issue anyway. The only thing is if you have a guy coming in who’s very young and he would prefer not to."

Moran says they all got a bounce off the younger players and laughs at how "extrovert" some of them are.

"They are very clannish, they stick together a lot," Moran says before adding they must decide which final they will learn the most from.

"It’s whether you take more out of the drawn game or the replay. You’ve showed that you can compete with arguably the best team of all time or whether you’re going to take more out of losing an All-Ireland final."

Moran will be 32 next June and knows there’s a clock ticking somewhere.

"I know time is running out for me because of my age profile. My aim is to go back next year. If they want me, I’ll be there if I can. Every aspect of your game needs to improve. We pride ourselves on our skill-set but I know myself I had three wides in the final.

"So I need to improve there anyway at least. I think we’ll have a good chance (next year) but it’s a very difficult position being there as the losing finalists because you’re up there now to be shot down.

"But you don’t have the medal to show for it. You’re hoping that you win it next year, so that it will make it even sweeter."

Outside the rush to get somewhere else continues. One of these evenings the Christmas lights will be turned on in the town. And like everything else, for the Tralee locals and Kerry football, they will signal a time of hope for what might come.

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