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'It's obviously important' - Top-flight football crucial for Mayo's rebuild says Andy Moran

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Andy Moran: ‘You’d like to hope the boys can pull out two results’. Photo: Sportsfile

Andy Moran: ‘You’d like to hope the boys can pull out two results’. Photo: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Andy Moran: ‘You’d like to hope the boys can pull out two results’. Photo: Sportsfile

Assuming the National League is played to a finish at some stage, the glass-half-full take on the Mayo footballers' perilous predicament heading into the final two rounds is that they are the game's great survivors.

Like a moth to the flame, they seem drawn to the high-wire act. Whether it be flirting with relegation or dicing with disaster in the championship, Mayo have shown a stomach for the fight and a willingness to dig themselves out of a hole. And on a handful of occasions during their 22-season stay in the top flight, they looked to be slipping through the trap door only to pull themselves back up.

But, as former Mayo star Andy Moran pointed out, it's different this time. Aside from the difficulties the coronavirus will bring, the permutations and combinations are mind-boggling.

But, in short, Mayo's destiny is out of their own hands.

Even if they take four points from their last two matches, it might not be enough. A Tyrone win over Donegal could bring score difference into play, a situation that would not be kind to the Connacht men.

In fact, there is even the bitter prospect of them being relegated in Salthill should their round six game go ahead.

Defeat to arch rivals Galway and a win for Donegal would mean the only team they could get level on points with going into the last round is Monaghan who would send them down on the head to head. And that scenario assumes the Farney men get nothing from their remaining home tie with Kerry or their trip to already-relegated Meath.

"Yeah (we have gotten out of worse)," Moran agreed at the announcement that McKeever Sports had secured an official GAA licence to manufacture gear for playing kit and leisurewear.

"But it was always in our own hands. The only problem here is you have Monaghan playing, you have Tyrone and Donegal playing on the other side, there's a lot of permutations here where even if Mayo win the two games, you could still manage to go down.

"The problem this time is that it's not in your own hands going into the last two games."

It's a source of pride in Mayo that they have been the top flight's longest residents. And with James Horan undertaking a rebuild of his squad, Moran stressed the importance of Division 1 for the development of players.

"There's a few reasons why it's important," Moran continued.

"It's obviously important because you see Oisín Mullin last week marking David Clifford, the best in the country. All of a sudden, he knows how it feels to mark a player of that quality.

"He's as good a forward as there is at the minute. To be playing against that level, for these young fellas coming through, I think that's important. And then obviously there is the financial side of it too, which is quite important as well.

"You take great pride in it. And then some years we snuck over the line and we got there, and it wasn't that we were saying, 'We had a great league', but it's the psychological element of staying in Division 1.

"If we go down, it's not the biggest disaster of all time, but at this stage, with two games to go, you would like to hope that the boys have something in them to pull out two results."

Moran will be on the outside looking in as Mayo attempt their latest great escape. Occasionally, he lets his mind wander to what might have been.

"I would be lying if I told you there wasn't moments. I remember taking James McCarthy down the inside coming out on the right in the 2016 final and missing it with the right foot... Moments that you think about and say, 'Jesus I'd love to have that moment again'.

"But like, I genuinely live in the framework, and I'm sure ye do too, that I and we as a group did everything that we could do to get there. And we didn't get there, we move on.

"Amateur sport is funny, because it's the only sport in the world where you are defined by one game. In soccer like, if you don't win the Premier League you might win a Champions League, you know? And they make lots of money and do other things, and their career is defined in other ways.

"If we keep defining ourselves by winning one game or losing one game, you're mad. So I don't. I genuinely don't."

Irish Independent