On Wednesday, 26-year-old Walsh confirmed he would be coming back after five seasons in the AFL. But for tearing a hamstring off a bone in his second year with the Sydney Swans, things may have worked out differently for Walsh.
Moran, his childhood buddy, feels for Walsh. As his Kerins O’Rahillys club-mate, he is delighted but warned him he will find it difficult to break into a winning side.
“I’ve been in regular contact with Tommy during his time in Australia,” said Moran, who was named as Football Personality of the Year by the Gaelic Writers Association last night. “I knew his thoughts, he has mixed emotions himself but it’s great news for the club and the county.
“I probably knew he was going to come back but I didn’t know for sure until it was confirmed. We’ve been close enough all our lives and I know a lot of people would be trying to talk to him so I didn’t want to be plaguing him. Tommy was playing AFL before he got injured and that’s the reality. He’s coming back and he’s going to enjoy it and make a contribution. We won’t have any high expectations of him. He’s not on the team yet, never mind the panel. There’s an All-Ireland-winning team, and he has to try and get through all of that.”
Walsh and Colm Cooper’s names are being sung from the highest heights as Kerry’s “new players” next season. Moran warns there are more who will be out to make up for lost time. “There were a few fellas carrying knocks this year, like Darran O’Sullivan, and when he comes back, he’ll be like a new player. There will be lads next year who pick up injuries that didn’t this year and that’s the time when those who have had knocks this year have to step up.”
Moran is this weekend training with Paul Earley’s provisional International Rules squad in Ballyhaunis, after a few weeks enjoying Kerry’s victory.
“When you win an All-Ireland and you haven’t won it in five years, maybe that’s why we’ve enjoyed it more.”
A Sportsfile photograph of Moran celebrating with his parents Ann and eight-time All-Ireland winner Denis “Ogie” beautifully illustrated just how much the win meant to the clan. “The family would suffer as much as the players, even more. He was more nervous than me but I’m not sure if he was more happy!”
After a second cruciate tear, Moran’s decision to return was justified but nothing is yet fulfilled. “It came down to whether I was going to come back or not and when I decided that, it was full steam ahead. I was young too, 25. I’m hoping to see more All-Irelands in the future.”
Beating Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final replay, when he gave a virtuoso display cemented his belief in the team. “When you win a replay after extra-time, the only guys who aren’t playing are those who have injuries and Brendan (Kealy). It proved we had such a strong panel. It had been documented we didn’t have a strong one. But all of a sudden we had 21 or 22 players capable of putting in a performance.”
On top of that, when Eamonn Fitzmaurice led an inspirational meeting in Dunboyne Castle Hotel the night before the final, Moran could have broken through walls. “It was very special. We’ve had a couple of those kind of meetings during the year when you come away from it saying ‘we’re going to win tomorrow’. I’m sure Donegal had a similar meeting themselves and thought the same.”
Then to get a handwritten letter from the manager the morning of the game? Well, that just sealed it. “It was an unreal boost. I think you get an impression of how much we think of him as a person and as a manager and he has so much respect for the players. To get that personal letter on the morning of the game, I can only say for myself that it was a great boost.”