Moran keeping faith in the cause

He says not hugely religious but when Andy Moran’s sister came home from a trip to Lourdes last week with a special wristband for him, he couldn’t help but wish she had done it a month earlier.

In the playmaker role in Mayo’s quarter-final win over Down, he was on his way to collecting the man-of-the-match award until the 50th minute. Chasing Liam Doyle down the wing, his foot got caught in the turf and his season was over.

The cruciate was gone and so was his season. Coming just six months after he made his comeback from a broken leg picked up at International Rules trials, he would have been forgiven for feeling angry at a higher power.

“My sister was in Lourdes and she’d be very religious,” he said. “I was saying to her she should have brought the bracelet back four weeks earlier.

“I would have faith alright. I like going to Mass on the morning of a game. I do think it’s a big part of playing. I’m injured for a reason and if that can help the team, why not?”

While disappointed to be missing the final, his positivity is one of the reasons why he was picked as James Horan’s captain and why he has remained the inspirational leader of the team.

Talk to any of the Mayo players and they preach his virtues. Indeed speak to anyone who has met him and they’ll join in too. That’s why his loss has become a rallying cry within the camp.

“Lads were probably thinking that but he was the very first to say it,” said team-mate Barry Moan. “He said: ‘I don’t want to hear my name mentioned again.’ That it was all about going forward and the Dublin game. That shows how unselfish a lad he is because it must be so hard to come in here as a team captain looking forward to an All-Ireland final and you can’t play in it.”

But that positivity is not to be confused with arrogance on Andy’s part. He’s just enthusiastic about Mayo football and feels he still has a role to perform for the team.

“I haven’t missed a meeting or a training session since. James [Horan] wants me around the team,” Moran said.

“We’ve a few vocal fellas around the team and I’d be one of them. If I wasn’t there, they’d be wondering where this lunatic is gone. The only thing that changes is that I won’t be able to do the same on the pitch.”

Sunday will be tough to watch from the sidelines. He’s had his operation and come to terms with the injury, which is amazing considering the journey he’s been on for the past two seasons under Horan. Gone are the naïve, innocent days and in their place is a hard-nosed approach to the game.

He believes the key to their game has been Mayo’s newfound strength in depth at midfield. Not only do they have the two O’Sheas and Barry Moran but Jason Gibbons, Ronan McGarrity, who is injured, and Danny Geraghty too.

It’s also down to their ability to find a man with a kick pass, a skill he feels neither Mayo, Donegal, Kerry or Dublin have got credit for.

“If you listen to the RTÉ guys, then foot passing is dead. But if you look at the big matches from the quarter-finals to the final, I think foot passing is alive in many different teams,” he said.

“Look at the skill level of Paul Flynn last week, Alan Dillon on my own team, the Donegal lads coming from the back, Declan O’Sullivan for Kerry, you wouldn’t say those guys are bad kick passers. Kick passing is a big part of our game. But since James came in, it’s our skill execution that we’ve worked on.”

Since his injury the country’s faith in his forwards to score in big games has been questioned. Their physique may be small but he feels they make up for it in mobility.

“It’s a double-edged sword. You can have all the kickers you want but if you don’t have the movement inside and players who are ready to win ball, then it’s not going to work.”

Given that attitude, the wristband might have come at the wrong time for Andy but the right time for Mayo football’s crusade for Sam.

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