Wednesday 21 August 2019

Mooney: I wasn't ready for county football on return from AFL

Caolan Mooney. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Caolan Mooney. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Caolan Mooney believes he "wasn't ready at all" for a return to inter-county football after his stint in the AFL.

The Down star was rated as one of the best prospects the county had produced in a number of years when he departed for Collingwood in 2011.

And after enjoying a fine season in Down colours in 2017, he admits that he wasn't in the right physical shape to deliver on that promise when he first came back in 2014.

"I wasn't ready at all," Mooney reflected. "When I came back I was 93kg and I was playing this year at 84kg. It took me a couple of years to shed a bit of weight and that extra weight I was carrying didn't help my hamstrings.

"Gaelic is more about speed and the AFL is more about endurance," said Mooney.

"It took a toll on the hamstrings playing Gaelic when I wasn't physically conditioned for it.

"Last year (2016) getting away from Down really gave me that buzz to want to come back in so I really tried hard to get into the shape of my life.

"I felt I did that but then just before the Armagh game I tore the patella and that set me back about five or six weeks and I went through the championship trying to chase fitness.

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"I was playing on a Sunday and then I couldn't train again until maybe the Thursday because the knee wouldn't settle down.

"By the end of the summer I wasn't as fit as I'd like to be. I'll concentrate on getting that right for next year."

Mooney had a year left on his deal when he left Collingwood but has no regrets about his decision.

"As a sport, I don't think it's anywhere near as good as Gaelic, it's not as enjoyable and I'm happier to be back here playing."

Mooney is raring to go for 2018 with the Mourne men but all his focus is on Rostrevor's run to the Ulster Club IFC final where they will face Seán Cavanagh's Moy in the Athletic Grounds.

And he admits he was a huge fan of the recently-retired Tyrone footballer when he was a boy.

"From a very young age I was a big fan of Tyrone football," he said.

"When I was younger and naive, I supported Tyrone. Seán Cavanagh was everything I wanted to be - big, physical… I wouldn't say as quick, but he's not slow.

"He's definitely a role model for young boys, through the years I've looked up to him and he's had a lot of success.

"At the same time he's had a lot of defeats that he's come back and he had a great inter-county career," Mooney said. "I'm sorry Sean, but I'm not going to let you win on Sunday."

"We're looking at the Moy as a team," he added.

"With the two Cavanaghs they are going to be a formidable outfit but they have 13 other players there, it's not a two-man outfit so we have to look at every player and see where we can try and pick holes."

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