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Sunday 24 June 2018

Moran: Tribesmen will be more physical this summer than last

HAPPY CAMPERS: Kellogg’s GAA Cúl Camps for 2018
were launched yesterday by Mayo footballer Andy Moran,
pictured here with Juno Murray from Dun Laoghaire. Photo: Brian McEvoy
HAPPY CAMPERS: Kellogg’s GAA Cúl Camps for 2018 were launched yesterday by Mayo footballer Andy Moran, pictured here with Juno Murray from Dun Laoghaire. Photo: Brian McEvoy

"I think Mayo are always in a stick or twist situation," notes Andy Moran. "It's just our nature."

Certainly, it is the defining characteristic of this current Mayo team, the one Moran has soldiered with since 2004, the side that has sampled so many All-Ireland SFC finals yet never felt the weight of Sam Maguire.

This footballing year, early though we are in its unravelling, is already a decent case in point.

So far, Mayo have dragged themselves away from relegation with their final kick of the competition, a dramatic late Kevin McLoughlin point against Donegal in Ballybofey.

They've lost their best player, Lee Keegan, and their captain, Cillian O'Connor, to medium-term injuries which threaten their early summer participation, while Moran himself has flirted dangerously with a suspension for his overly-enthusiastic interaction with ref Maurice Deegan against Tyrone.

FOCUS: Andy Moran. Photo: Sportsfile
FOCUS: Andy Moran. Photo: Sportsfile

That was all before the start of April. And in case anyone was in any doubt about the level of difficulty they face in Castlebar in May 13 when Galway come to MacHale Park, Kevin Walsh's team's robust and competitive performance in the league final against Dublin last weekend shredded any remaining questions.

"It's a big game, it's a huge game, let's call a spade a spade," Moran agrees.

Exciting

"If you watch Galway compared to the team that played Kerry last year, 100 per cent they've come on.

"They are a very physical team, they like to get stuck in."

Not that Moran is expecting anything particularly new from Galway in less than six weeks' time, despite their new physical edge and enhanced defensive shape.

"It's the same core group of players that we played last year in Salthill, and we'll probably have the same core group as well, bar one or two," he points out.

"It should be a really exciting game. We've five and a half weeks to get ready for it and there's going to a lot of physicality.

"Refs will tell you - you know from the ref who's reffing the game what he'll pull up and won't.

"Look at that game the last day: there was 32 scores in 70 minutes of football - 0-18 to 0-14.

"Are Galway more physical than they were three years ago? Of course they are.

"But once you get to championship, there's two umpires either side and three officials - you don't get away with anything."

One well-aired theory this winter was that Mayo's high mileage would prevent them from charting a scenic route to this year's 'Super Eights' round should they repeat the results of the last two summers and lose to Galway.

Their age and current injury profiles adds credence to that notion.

"The killer about the back door is that, if you have one slip, you're out," Moran notes.

"As you saw last year against Derry and Cork after extra-time, they could as easily have been a one-point defeat.

"To me," Moran goes on, "the proper route to go through is the front door.

"If it doesn't happen, you just deal with it and move on."

Galway's rapid rise this year has brought back memories of the sequence of power in Connacht in 1996, '97 and '98, where Mayo qualified for - and were beaten in - two All-Ireland finals before the Tribesmen emerged in 1998 from the shadows to succeed where Mayo had failed.

"If someone from Connacht wins an All-Ireland, that is not a bad thing for Connacht football," Moran notes.

"If that's Galway, it is Galway. Do I want it to be Galway?

"Absolutely not, I want it to be Mayo but I would be very proud to say that Connacht football is going in right direction."

Naturally then, Moran admits, he has fantasised about the aftermath of a Mayo All-Ireland win, given the recent history of excruciating near misses.

"I'd say it would be quite similar to the likes of Armagh, Clare in the 1990s in the hurling.

"Mayo people are .... don't get me wrong, if we won an All-Ireland in September, Mayo people would be giving out about something in October.

"It's football, it's an addiction, it's what they love."

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