Watching Cork footballers train changed Andy Moran's career

Former Footballer of the Year Andy Moran has admitted his Mayo career only truly "took off" after a lightbulb moment watching the Cork footballers training in late 2010.
Watching Cork footballers train changed Andy Moran's career

Former Footballer of the Year Andy Moran has admitted his Mayo career only truly "took off" after a lightbulb moment watching the Cork footballers training in late 2010.

Moran concluded after watching a number of All-Ireland-winning Cork stars working out on the 2010 All-Stars trip in Kuala Lumpur that he simply wasn't "near fit enough".

The 36-year-old, who retired last August, said that watching half-back John Miskella, in particular, during a morning work-out convinced him of the level he needed to get to.

Serious injuries to Moran's leg, knee, and back in subsequent seasons affected him but he went on to start four All-Ireland finals, scoring in each of them, and becoming Footballer of the Year in 2017.

In a fascinating life and times interview for EJ Menswear shop in Sligo, in which Moran listed Lee Keegan as "the best player that ever played for Mayo" and revealed his own regret about being too "serious about myself" earlier in his career, the gym owner spoke glowingly about Conor Counihan's all-conquering Cork team.

"I don't know if you remember Pearse O'Neill that used to play for Cork, six-foot-five, six-foot-six, monster of a man, I ended up marking this specimen on the All-Star trip," said Moran, who was nominated for an All-Star in 2009 as a wing-back.

"I used to go to the gym. I used to go down and I used to see the Cork boys. I was like, 'Look at these boys'. I used to always think I was in good shape, I was fit. But I seen these boys training and I just kind of went....there were two or three moments in my career that kind of helped me. One of them was going to Sligo (IT) and the second one was that trip.

I'll never forget coming home from that trip going 'I'm not near fit enough here'. I genuinely looked at John Miskella, these guys that I had to mark, thinking, 'I'm not fit enough to mark these guys, I'm genuinely not physically able to mark these guys if we get to Croke Park'.

"I came home that year, I was in horrible shape going for the tests with (James) Horan in 2011, and I just kind of set my stall out and my career kind of took off from there."

Moran said that playing in Mayo half-back and half-forward lines initially meant he was caught out when it came to facing top teams like Cork, who were noted for their athleticism and hard running, particularly at Croke Park.

"My game was as a play-maker, I was decent on the ball, I was good under the breaking ball but as soon as we got into the big inter-county games, fellas were too fast for me," he said.

"I told you about the Cork lads, when they started running at Croke Park it was all over for me. My career was really decent in the National League, decent in the Connacht championship, get to Croke Park, waste of time.

"I played in the number 12 position, that Brian Dooher position where you had to cover all the ground. I physically wasn't able to do it. What happened then was I reverted role, got into the number 14 position, and then all of a sudden I could use what I could see in the game to help me."

Moran described the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final replay against Kerry at Limerick's Gaelic Grounds as the best atmosphere he experienced throughout his lengthy career which began in 2003.

"The one thing we said was we'd follow the band the whole way around, so stick together, follow the band the whole way around in the parade," he said.

"It sounds mad... but we were in Limerick, it's a beautiful setting, it's something else on a dry summer's day, and the two teams literally walked the whole way around.

I've never seen it, I swear to God, I've never seen it done where the two teams followed the band the whole way around. It was the most amazing atmosphere I've ever witnessed, ever, playing in a game of Gaelic football, better than All-Ireland finals, everything. It was just at a different level.

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