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'We'll win an All-Ireland'


Andy Moran and team-mates Jason Gibbons, Barry Moran and Donal Vaughan watch Donegal receiving the Sam Maguire Cup

Andy Moran and team-mates Jason Gibbons, Barry Moran and Donal Vaughan watch Donegal receiving the Sam Maguire Cup

Andy Moran and team-mates Jason Gibbons, Barry Moran and Donal Vaughan watch Donegal receiving the Sam Maguire Cup

THE lobby of the Regency Hotel is just starting to stir with life when Andy Moran leans up against a wall, props the knee that betrayed him on his crutch and explains why last Sunday was different to what went before.

On paper, Mayo's footballers followed an all too familiar trail. Like 2004 and 2006, a slow start eventually cost them another All-Ireland final but Moran, a resolutely positive figure, reasons that this side shouldn't be lumped in with some of the other Mayo teams that fell at the same stage.

"I believe this team is a different team," he explains before listing some of the previous entries in the county's of house of pain," he says.

"In 1989 they were coming to the end of a cycle from the 1983 team that won the U-21 All-Ireland. And in 1996 and 1997 we had teams that should have won it.

"In 2004 and 2006 we weren't good enough. But these lads have won All-Irelands at U-21s, we have won Sigersons, we have won club titles. Listen, we'll be back again next year and we won't lie down.


"In 2004, Kerry were without Darragh O Se and Seamus Moynihan and we still weren't able to beat them -- in fact they beat us well. It was a carnival for Kerry.

"This time, it was a battle right to the end. If you asked Jim McGuinness after 20 minutes what he thought when Kevin McLoughlin was getting the game by the scruff of the neck, I'm sure he was saying 'hang on here, things aren't going according to plan'.

"I didn't sleep too well last night. But the fight until the end is a thing this team has, and it gives us something to build on next year.

"That's what we need to look at now -- the average age of the team is 23."

Some of the Mayo players have already been on to the management team looking for gym programmes for 2013.

Moran himself has targeted April Fool's day for his return to the pitch.

He looked into the prospect of following Henry Shefflin's lead from the 2010 hurling final, when the Kilkenny legend played despite a serious knee injury similar to Moran's, but it was a non-runner.

"I think he (Shefflin) was pretty confident about coming back in to play in that game and he could have played, but he just got the same twist in it again and it was gone.

"I'd say he probably had a few fibres left in it, too. Mine was totally gone. There was no chance of me playing -- mine never improved from the day I got it until surgery, so it was a dead duck, really. I tore the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and a bit of cartilage gone as well.

"It was totally gone at the time. I had a few words with Henry, who has been very good to me, Colm O'Neill and David Moran, and other guys who have done it before.

"They gave me a bit of advice and it was a non-runner for me to go back into it. It would probably have been a bit of an Alan Brogan situation if I'd tried to play -- it wouldn't have helped the team at all."

For Moran there's "no question" as to whether James Horan will be at the helm next year, but the man himself is slightly more cautious.

"Talk to my wife," Horan smiled after completing the second season of his three-year term. "I haven't even thought about it.

"It is relentless, absolutely relentless and maybe that's something I didn't fully appreciate. Morning, noon and night -- every single day. It's hard to get a bit of time off, but you wouldn't do it unless you enjoyed it."

Horan was full of praise for corner-back Kevin Keane despite his spill in the lead-up to Donegal's second goal.

"The first goal they got, maybe we gave them a yard or two too much pace, but it was a cracking shot," he said.

"The second goal was completely sickening. We had the ball in our hands, dropped it. And maybe we should have had a free before, that kind of stuff. That was hard to take.

"But I think we dealt with their game and I think we probably had the majority of possession throughout the 70 minutes.

"We dealt with their counter-attacking game very well, I thought, and looked quite comfortable -- apart from that opening 10 minutes.

"Kevin has come in this year and done very well for us and even yesterday you saw the way he finished out. He was very strong.

"That's the character and spirit we showed all year, in every single game. In every game ever played, mistakes have been made, so you just learn from them and move on."

The rain poured down as the Mayo squad boarded the bus for Castlebar.

The trip home would officially bookend another season where Sam Maguire has stayed beyond the grasp of yearning Mayo hands, but Moran insists the journey had just begun.

"I believe we're going to win more than one (All-Ireland), to be honest with you. If we win one we'll keep going. This is a great group of lads and I wouldn't be surprised in two weeks' time if these lads are back training.

"That's the sort of group they are. It took Jim McGuinness two years to win it and if it takes us three years, four or five, we'll keep fighting. We'll be back."

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