Andy Moran has won eight Connacht medals and there isn’t much the Mayo veteran hasn’t seen in his career but the 31-year old is enjoying the view of Aidan O’Shea’s stellar season.
Moran played in three of the county’s four All-Ireland defeats since 2004, and knows more the pain of coming up short at headquarters.
The Ballaghaderreen clubman made his championship debut 11 years ago and was involved in the final that year when Kerry put 1-20 past them in an eight-point victory.
Two years later the Kingdom inflicted another painful lesson while Moran, captain in 2012, missed that decider with a cruciate ligament injury when Donegal were too good. In 2013, he bagged 1-2 from play but it still wasn’t enough, as Bernard Brogan inspired Dublin to their second title in three years.
Now, with Mayo on the back of their fifth Connacht crown in five years, Moran hopes O’Shea’s relocation to full forward could prove pivotal in their quest for Sam Maguire.
O’Shea hit 3-4 in the 26-point win over Sligo at Dr Hyde Park and even though he is likely to come up against three-time All-Star Neil McGee today, Moran says he must be utilised as a target man. “He scored that much against Sligo and is an exceptional talent. We have had a few of them but he is at the peak of his powers right now.
“It is very important that we use him now because he is 25 years of age. He is fit and he is physically a very big man. He is a star waiting to happen and we just need to use him as best we can.
“But we have plenty of options. There is plenty of competition there coming off the bench. It is a high pressure situation but that is a good position for us to be in.”
Moran didn’t score in the Connacht final and was replaced at half-time for precautionary reasons following a knee injury.
He is one of the leaders of this Mayo side and his experience will be vital as they look to replicate their 2013 All-Ireland quarter-final success over Donegal.
“The nice weather and dry pitch definitely suits us. When the pitch is drier, I think the way we move the ball around and the pace we can move it at it makes a big difference to us. The big wide open spaces in Croke Park, with our half-back line, really suits us. There are a few things we have to sort out — we conceded 2-11 in the Connacht final. We dominated that game and we shouldn’t be doing that either.”
Indeed, Mayo’s concession of four goals in the provincial championship equalled the total number of goals conceded in Connacht in winning the previous four titles.
Now they come up against a Donegal side who blasted 3-12 past Galway last weekend.
Once the northerners unleashed some of their big guns in the second half and moved Michael Murphy to full forward, they were devastating.
Moran thinks Mayo must tighten up throughout the field if they are to stand a chance of making a fifth All-Ireland semi-final in a row.
“If we scored 6-25 against Sligo, that comes as a result of the work our corner-backs are doing. And it’s the same in the forwards, if we are conceding 2-11 that is as much my fault as it is Keith Higgins’ fault or any of the other defenders.
“It is a team effort and at the minute we need to tidy it up. But we are not far away either. Hopefully by the time we get to Croke Park, we’ll be alright.”
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