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Wednesday 14 November 2018

Warrior of the West Moran remains a true believer in Mayo's perennial quest for Sam

EVERGREEN AND RED: Mayo forward Andy Moran will be
a key men for his team on Sunday against Galway. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
EVERGREEN AND RED: Mayo forward Andy Moran will be a key men for his team on Sunday against Galway. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Andy Moran has never been the type to let a history of recurring Sam Maguire heartbreak get in the way of a positive mindset. That helps to explain a previous prediction that this current Mayo team would go on to win at least two All-Irelands.

"I thought the team at the time was good enough, I genuinely did," he now says.

"You see what Dublin did - they went and won two or three. That's the sign of a really great team. You would always hear the Kerry boys talking about, you know, you love to back stuff up … that would be the mindset."

But Mayo have lost another two in the interim. Does Moran still believe?

"I'd take one now at this stage!" he laughs.

"We've had a massive journey and what I would love to think is that I'm going hell for leather to win one this year, next year. Whenever I play, I think you can only have one goal.

"But the key now is that we've a legacy moving forward. It's like we didn't get to an All-Ireland or two, then drop off.

"We've literally stayed there five, six, seven years and we're hoping that these young guys that are coming in after us, the likes of Stephen Coen, Conor Loftus, now understand that they can carry it on.

"What can you do only go for it? If it's not to be, it's not to be."

Besides, he adds, his older and wiser self can live with the fact that "I had one or two serious injuries throughout my career, I came back, I played really well, I busted myself to win the All-Ireland. If it doesn't happen, I can't do any more. I have a wife and two kids at home; if I feel sorry for myself for five minutes I'm dead. So I can't."

Little wonder

When your next birthday (in November) will be your 35th; when you have been playing on losing All-Ireland final teams since 2004; when you have come so tantalisingly close in the last two years especially … when all of this applies to you, little wonder at the more philosophical tone struck above.

And yet Moran remains a true believer. Even if Mayo were to lose this Sunday's potentially summer-defining Castlebar showdown with Galway, the 2017 Footballer of the Year is adamant that Mayo could yet be Team of the Year in 2018.

"To be honest with you," he says, "if I see Galway or Mayo losing this game, I still see them being involved at some stage during the summer.

"We are really focusing on it, really want to win Connacht, but if it doesn't happen we will just focus on the next game."

What about the pundits who consider the alternative (four qualifiers and three 'Super 8' games simply to reach a semi-final) and declare Sunday's D-Day as a case of now-or-never for Mayo?

Entitled

"What would I say?" Moran ponders. "You need to write your stuff.

"The boys need to say the stuff on telly, so if that's their opinion they are well entitled to it."

Of course, writing and talking about Mayo football has become a national pastime. Even Lazarus couldn't match their record for premature obituaries.

They are the story that keeps on giving but they are also, Moran insists, "a great team to play for".

This is partly because of the emotional investment of their supporters: "People are obsessed with football," he explains.

But there's another reason too.

"Would I have preferred to have won an All-Ireland in 2004 and got it out of the way and not to have this attention? Of course, I would have. But listen, it is what it is.

"People say about losing All-Irelands ... I would much prefer to be in the All-Ireland than not be in it. You have only one chance of winning and that's if you are in the bloody thing."

Psyche

This bounce-back-ability is, he surmises, a Mayo trait, "a tiny part of our personality".

"We can take stuff, give out about it for a while, and then go at it again.

"I think that's probably just the nature of our psyche," he explains.

"Like, I see Dublin players now - did Ciarán Whelan win an All-Ireland? Would he have loved to win one? Of course he would.

"But he busted himself every time he went out and he didn't win one. And now he's seeing his crop winning five of them. I think he'd be okay with that.

"And I think most people, when they reflect and look back, would be okay with it.

"But you've got to be. If you weren't, you'd drive yourself mad."

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