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Sunday 16 December 2018

Mayo's dawn after a black day for Moran

Veteran star says of his remonstration with ref: 'It's not me, the way I gave out to him'

Andy Moran ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Andy Moran ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

It was a funny-peculiar league for the perennial pretenders to Dublin's All-Ireland throne. But it could have ended a whole lot worse for Mayo and their Footballer of the Year, Andy Moran.

Mayo avoided relegation in the dying seconds of the last day, thanks to Kevin McLoughlin's equaliser in Ballybofey.

And Moran escaped a potentially disastrous 12-week ban arising from his brush with authority the previous week, on a calamitous day for Mayo against a rampant Tyrone in Castlebar.

"To be honest with you," the veteran forward now says, "I would be disappointed with the way I remonstrated with Maurice (Deegan) at the time.

"I took my punishment. I got it. And that's the way it is."

It helped, of course, that his punishment was nothing more serious than banishment for the rest of a game that was already spiralling beyond reach.

In truth, the potential for a lengthy ban incorporating Mayo's Connacht SFC date with Galway on May 13 was rendered improbable in the extreme once referee Deegan dealt with the issue by brandishing a black card.

Clearly, the Laois whistler construed it to be a case of remonstrating in an aggressive manner with a match official - one of the five black card offences.

cause célèbre

The contrast, though, wasn't lost on Dublin fans, among others, quick to highlight the cause célèbre of Diarmuid Connolly. He received a 12-week suspension last June after being cited for "minor physical interference" with a match official (linesman Ciarán Branagan).

Crucially, whereas that referee (Seán Hurson) didn't take action at the time but curiously included the incident in his match report, Deegan's on-the-spot decision worked in Moran's favour.

That said, even if there was some minor contact, the Mayo man says: "It was accidental". But he goes on: "I'd be very disappointed ... it's not me, the way I kind of gave out to him. It is what it is. I got my punishment and I took it. Can't really do much more about it."

Did his frustration stem from that one incident, awarding a free to Tyrone?

"We are being honest here," he explains. "I had a lot going on in my life at the time ... you've watched me playing for a long time, I don't think I've ever reacted (like that before). I've never been sent off in my life!

"I think it must have been external things that must have been going on in my life or something. I don't really know to be honest with you; I can't answer the question."

The previous month, his father Vincent had passed away. It had been a tough time but, he accepts, "no more so than anyone else. I'm not looking for any sympathy by it. That's just the way it is. Life waits for no one."

All told, it was a day of trauma for Mayo: hammered and haunted by the spectre of relegation, compounded by the exits of Cillian O'Connor (hamstring), Lee Keegan (dislocated shoulder), Colm Boyle (double yellow) and Moran (black).

"It was one thing after another," the latter concludes, "and it's a game that we'd be very disappointed with as a group."

And yet, from the ashes, Mayo preserved their top-flight status by drawing in Fortress Ballybofey.

"We had three games to play - Kildare, Tyrone and Donegal - and for two of those games we did quite well," Moran points out. "We went up to Donegal, we had no Chris Barrett, Brendan Harrison, Keith Higgins, Cillian O'Connor, Lee Keegan. Huge players for us, but we just had the mantra to 'keep in the game'.

"Let's be honest, we were very lucky, Kevin McLoughlin produced a bit of magic at the end ... but we did have a mantra to stay in the game. And that's the way it transpired. But that comes with experience and a bit of confidence within the group."

Moreover, as concludes: "I was saying even before the Donegal game, if it did happen that we went down, if we look at what we are trying to do for championship, we did gain some serious players.

HUGE

"All of a sudden now, we got two corner-backs because of the injuries in Caolan Crowe and Eoin O'Donoghue. Conor Loftus stood up in a huge moment and took the frees, which is huge for us ... even if Cillian is fit and playing, he is not going to be around forever. And Stephen Coen had a huge national league, so to me that is four players that really broke through.

"Robbie (Hennelly) came back in and played his first couple of league games in two years, so there are huge bonuses."

After the black, it seems, a new dawn.

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