Four years ago he stood defeated in a Dr Crokes dressing room in Fitzgerald Stadium. Two broken ribs helped to focus his mind: enough, he was done.
It was November 2009 and David Moloney, the full-forward, had just lost his third county final to South Kerry, and he had to go back to 2000 for his last one. He was cashing in his chips.
He returned to the relative comfort of B football for 2010 and 2011 before a phone call in the summer of 2012 led him back to where it all started: between the posts.
“Vince [Casey] called me. I remember it well as my grandfather was dying at the time but I took the call. Vince was telling me that they needed a keeper for a county championship game against St Michael’s/Foilmore. The first choice keeper Alan Kelly was heading to the Euros in Poland and the sub keeper at the time, Andrew O’Connell, had just picked up an injury.”
Moloney had not played as a goalkeeper for over 14 years, his last appearance had been in the 1998 All-Ireland U21 final. Kerry beat Laois that day at tomorrow’s Munster SFC final venue, Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds.
“I was trying to talk Vince out of it, telling him it had been 14 years since I played in goal, but he was insistent. I played and I haven’t looked back since. I’m really glad I came back. When I was young I was mad to play in goal. I just wish now that it hadn’t taken me 14 years to go back in. That bit of experience from playing outfield has helped me though in terms of player movements. You can tell what way a forward wants the ball and how he is angling his runs.”
He is known as ‘Melon’ — a nickname that stems from his time in the Monastery national school in Killarney town.
“It was Micky Brosnan that gave it to me when I was about 10. We were having a vote in the ‘Mon’ one day as to who would get what nickname. Micky just decided that I was going to be called ‘Melon’, the class voted on it and it stuck. Before long the teachers were calling me Melon, so that was that.”
His record has been quite good since his return to No 1. Officially, 2,278 were there to see it in the flesh last February. Ballymun’s Ted Furman was the culprit when he became the last player to score a goal from open play in a championship game past Moloney.
The electrician with Liebherr in Killarney has played seven championship games since. Two goals have been conceded — both penalties — converted by Loughmore-Castleiney’s John McGrath and East Kerry’s Liam Murphy.
“I don’t take to the field thinking of records,” says Moloney. “As a team we say if we don’t concede soft frees or concede goals then we have the forwards to win games.”
Those forwards are the ones who get the rose petals scattered at their feet after most games, but Moloney appreciates their value.
“Every night in training our backs are marking some of the best forwards in club football. There’s no better practice than facing those lads. Our plans really are to target top scorers, like we did with Castlehaven’s Brian Hurley. He had scored 0-12 in the Cork county final, so we targeted him.”
Another flashback. It’s April 1997, and a wet Tuesday evening in Páirc Uí Rinn provides Moloney, now 36, with one of his great memories. It was the Munster U21 final replay against Cork. Kerry, with Moloney between the sticks, led by two (0-12 to 1-7) as time ebbed into the last minute. The tide turned when Philip Clifford was fouled and Cork were awarded a penalty. Alan O’Regan stepped up.
“I remember from the drawn game in Tralee that he hit a rocket past me to my right. I just decided to go the same way, it worked and I saved it. Jack O’Connor was over us that day and he was telling me to go the other way!”
He went a different way in football for some 14 years but is now back where it all began.
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