How the demands of fans keep Kerry grounded

Séamus Moynihan won four All-Ireland titles with Kerry but says he is "reminded of the losses more than the wins" in the Kingdom.

How the demands of fans keep Kerry grounded

Séamus Moynihan won four All-Ireland titles with Kerry but says he is "reminded of the losses more than the wins" in the Kingdom.

Having begun his senior career as a teenager in 1992, Moynihan claimed Celtic Crosses in 1997, 2000, 2004, and 2006. However, defeats such as the 2001 All-Ireland semi-final to Meath, the following year’s final against Armagh, and the 2003 semi-final to Tyrone live long in the minds of Kingdom fans.

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“I think you’re reminded of the losses more than the wins in Kerry anyway,” he laughed, in conversation with Tony Leen on The Irish Examiner GAA Podcast.

I don’t think anyone has ever come up to me saying, ‘Jesus, one of the years we won the All-Ireland was great’. Invariably, it’s, ‘What the fuck happened to you in 2002?’ or ‘Why were ye shit in 2001?’

“I think that’s a good thing, that keeps you grounded as well.”

In 2002, Kerry came through the back door to reach the All-Ireland final, having lost to Cork in a Munster semi-final replay a week after the death of Micheál Ó Sé, brother of manager Páidí and father to Darragh, Tomás, and Marc.

But they were defeated by an Armagh side who were winning the county’s maiden title.

“We were teed up nicely for the Armagh game but it was a second half where guys didn’t perform,” said Moynihan.

“We still only lost by a point, you can look at it and say all we needed was someone like Maurice (Fitzgerald), who came on in 2000 and was so instrumental in those games (Kerry defeated Armagh in a replayed All-Ireland semi-final).

“It was just a pity he wasn’t part of that. Even if we had had a second day out, I would have been confident. You never know.

“Armagh went close to beating us in 2000, the wheel goes full circle and we got caught out in 2002. It was disappointing, especially as Darragh was captain, given what they went through that summer, it would have been special for him and Páidí to bring home Sam Maguire because they really deserved that.”

A year later, Tyrone’s swarm tactics in a 0-13 to 0-6 semi-final win over Kerry led Pat Spillane to call their approach “puke football”. Moynihan recalls a tough challenge.

“Tyrone brought a new level of work-rate to the table. Galway were probably the first team to do that, in terms of pushing up on the defence and making it awkward for teams coming out. In 2003, it went to another level and in fairness, it worked really well for Tyrone.

“The work-rate they brought that day was unbelievable. You can look back at it now, I still feel the referee was very weak. I genuinely felt that he left an awful lot go in terms of the tackling.

“That does not… Tyrone were well worth their win on the day, we were just off the pace. If you look back at those games, I don’t look at them myself, but we struggled against Roscommon in the quarter-final, my own man personally got a soft goal late in the game, a high ball coming into the square.

“We were disjointed and disorganised, Roscommon got three or four handy goals that day. We were coasting and kicking points but we didn’t win by a huge margin, we hadn’t been playing well.

The signs were there and a young, fresh team from Tyrone came up. Obviously, we knew about the Peter Canavans and the U21s but, to be fair, we didn’t know a huge amount. Peter Canavan went off injured that day and I went on Stephen O’Neill. I knew of him but I knew more about him when the game was over!

“That’s the beauty of sport, these lads come on and they were buzzing, they were hopping, and full of energy. It was my 11th year playing with Kerry and it does take its toll. You might still have the same head but that yard of pace is slipping every year.”

Moynihan’s debut season in 1992 also carried the frustration tag, as Kerry lost the Munster final to Clare. Having helped St Brendan’s College win the Hogan Cup, Moynihan was drafted in by Mickey ‘Ned’ O’Sullivan shortly before the decider.

“Obviously, as an 18-year-old, I wasn’t as bad as the fellas that had soldiered [all year],” he said.

“I was wet behind the ears after putting in four weeks of a commitment towards it. I can only imagine what it was like for the lads who had been there since October and November and the start of the league.

“You can’t compare that, I hadn’t the hard slog done, but I was obviously disappointed. At 18, you say, ‘We can always go next year’, but unfortunately, for the next three years, that result didn’t happen.

“We weren’t winning Munster and we were coming up against a very solid Cork team. We were very much a team in transition and coming up short.”

That first loss gave him an insight into the pain of defeat.

“I can remember, I was working in Pretty Polly, where my Dad used to work,” he said.

“I came in at 8am one morning, I think it was the week after, there was a fella inside and he was singing, ‘It’s a long way from Clare to here’, just to remind me of the defeat.

“There’s no doubt, Clare deserved their day. They had some really good players who had played a lot of football over the years.”

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