Thursday 23 November 2017

Moran ready to defend from front after ending nomadic life

Jackie Cahill

WATERFORD'S hurling nomad may have finally found a place he can call home. Since making his Deise senior debut in 2006, Kevin Moran has played in every line, but is now firmly and happily settled on the '40'.

In 2006, Moran made his championship debut against Laois at full-back, a position to which he would later return. A year later the De La Salle clubman switched to midfield and, while he started at No 3 for Justin McCarthy in 2008, Davy Fitzgerald's arrival as manager saw Moran move to wing-back, where he played against Kilkenny in the ill-fated All-Ireland final.

The 2009 campaign saw Moran move to the half-forward line and that's where he's operated in this championship season -- with great success.

"He's one of those versatile players that can play anywhere from half-back to half-forward," said former Waterford captain Fergal Hartley.

In 2008, Moran captained the Waterford IT team that edged out Limerick IT in a classic Fitzgibbon Cup decider, a game which required two periods of extra-time before two star-studded sides were finally prised apart.

Current Wexford boss Colm Bonnar managed that WIT team to glory and is full of admiration for Moran and his versatility.

"We played Waterford in a challenge match in New Ross and he was full-forward," Bonnar revealed. "We found him very hard to manage. On the puck-outs, he's a great man to win possession and take a couple of scores. He has a good head about him too and can spray the ball around.

"He was our captain and centre-back when we won the Fitzgibbon Cup. When we were in trouble, we had the option of moving him to midfield and he would come up with two or three points. He's been a huge addition to Waterford and is still very young at 23-years-old."

Bonnar, domiciled in Waterford for many years, remembers that Moran carried a "big reputation" on to the senior stage from the underage ranks.

"He was a big man playing underage," Bonnar said. "We played him full-back (for WIT) another year and he marked Joe Canning.

"You could put him out to wing-back, centre-back, a fella you could play anywhere. He's comfortable coming to the ball and facing it. It took him a while to find his feet with Waterford, but he had the commitment and dedication to hurling to make it.

"He was a great captain for us and led by example, hugely committed to training and a good mixer with the other players. He was well-liked and wasn't afraid to socialise with the lads when it had to be done!

"Guys he played with, like TJ Reid and John Dalton from Kilkenny, had the utmost respect for Kevin as a hurler."

Moran spent four years at WIT and, in that time, Bonnar watched him blossom. Having honed his skills all over the field, Moran is acutely aware of his defensive responsibilities, particularly in the current Waterford system, which is heavily based around squeezing space and nullifying the opposition.

Moran agrees: "I think we're all working on the same wavelength. The lads are emphasising that there are no individuals anymore. We've been building a team spirit over the last couple of years and we're getting where we want to be. Defending is part of it -- everyone does their bit."

As he prepares for tomorrow's showdown with Tipp, Moran admits that it would be foolish not to learn from the Cats, who have scaled unparalleled hurling heights in recent years.

"They're up there," he said. "If you're going to take from someone, you have to take from Kilkenny, don't you?"

Irish Independent

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