Wednesday 13 December 2017

Moran sends out Mayo battle cry

Declan Rooney

John O'Mahony has been involved in football long enough to be able to spot talent from a distance, hence the level of success he has brought to his native Mayo and in his spells in charge of Leitrim and Galway.

But whatever about keeping an eye on talent further afield, O'Mahony was not blind to developments in his own club Ballaghaderreen on the Mayo-Roscommon border, and he first spotted Andy Moran as a 10-year-old.

It has come as no surprise to O'Mahony that Moran has emerged as a leader for both club and county.

"Andy was a fine footballer right from the age of 10," he said. "I saw him coming up through the ranks in Ballaghaderreen and trained him when he was in St Nathy's College.

"Even then he was every bit the leader he is today. He wasn't our captain when we won the All-Ireland Colleges 'B' championship in 2000, but he was a key leader for us. He was always a thinker on his feet on the field, which is his big asset."

New Mayo boss James Horan had Moran's quick thinking to thank after the Ruislip debacle recently, as his seven points hauled back London's lead and eventually pushed a limping Mayo over the line.

But O'Mahony was not surprised with the identity of their saviour and recalled how a youthful Moran saved his bacon early in his career with a courageous display.

"Andy missed a penalty in the first half of that colleges All-Ireland in 2000. That could have seen him shrink away, but he still had the character to step up and take our second one in the second half and he tucked it away coolly. And in the semi-final, he also scored a fabulous goal from midfield that won us the game.

"But it wasn't just football that he excelled at; he was a terrific handballer and soccer player. He was even on the books of Longford Town for a while, but decided to concentrate on GAA early in the 2000s. But he would have succeeded at either sport."

Obviously, Longford's loss has been Mayo's gain, but Moran himself admitted that Mayo's self-belief can be fragile at times.

STRANGE

"Confidence is a strange word at the minute; what happened against London, it happened and it's gone. We just need to get our act together," said Moran.

"When we came back from London, we were the world's worst. The second week it was said that day might help us against Galway and by the third week the fans are really expecting us to beat Galway.

"So it is a strange sort of situation; Mayo people are Mayo people and they expect the best once you put on the Mayo jersey. All we can do is deliver that every day we go out. If we do, who knows where it could take us."

Defeats to Sligo and Longford in last year's championship spelled the end for O'Mahony in his second stint as manager.

And with a spluttering performance against London already in the bag, the heat has been turned up on the current crop.

"No doubt about it (there is pressure on us)," admitted Moran. "Since I have played with Mayo there has always been pressure. Mayo people don't expect anything else bar 100pc effort and they don't expect anything else bar victory.

"But we haven't got too many of them lately, so there is big pressure on us. And when Galway come across the border and into Castlebar the pressure gets even higher."

Some well-oiled phrases are doing the rounds this week from both camps.

We have been told that 'only a bounce of the ball will separate the teams' and that 'form goes out the window in a Galway-Mayo clash'.

They both seem to have done their research. In the last six championship meetings, Mayo and Galway have three wins each. The last two, the Connacht finals of 2008 and 2009, were won by a 2-12 to 1-14 scoreline, with one win apiece.

But Moran says it is team spirit that will see a side across the winning line.

"That's what we need. That's what we were lacking in London and to me that's what we were probably lacking last year against Longford," he said.

"The spirit is what gets you everywhere; you can play with your head, but if you don't have the heart for it, you may as well go home. But I firmly believe that this team has it.

"I am confident to be honest, but we are all optimistic guys. It is as simple as this: if we get 15 guys fighting for each other on Sunday, we have a big chance."

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