AIB ULSTER CLUB SFC FINAL:
Omagh St Enda’s (Tyrone) v Slaughtneil (Derry)
Mickey Moran is a well-travelled man, having been in the county hot seats in Derry, Donegal, Mayo, Leitrim and Sligo along with numerous club jobs.
They remember him almost everywhere he goes, but there is particular fondness in Omagh.
Up until Lawrence Strain guided Omagh St Enda’s to the Tyrone county title at the start of October, Moran remained the last man to have brought the silverware back to Healy Park.
Now, 26 years later, Moran will be in the other dugout on Sunday, trying to deny St Enda’s a first ever Ulster Club SFC title by guiding Slaughtneil of Derry to the same feat.
Moran has worked as hard with Slaughtneil as he has done in any managerial job since he took over as Derry manager at the age of just 29 in 1980.
The retired teacher’s popularity with those he managed was emphasised by his reappointment for a fourth year with Leitrim in August 2011. But just three months later, he was forced to step down because of ill health.
Now the Glen man is enjoying his return to the dugout, with Slaughtneil.
“He got us to believe in ourselves,” says Slaughtneil captain Francis McEldowney.
“Mickey would have done a lot of work behind the scenes, even when there was no training, on other teams and what we were up against, and how to go about it.
“Cutting out the mistakes was a big thing. Looking back on our matches, if we’d cut out some of the mistakes we made, we probably would have won more championships.”
Moran understood what hurling means to Slaughtneil as well. He and Mickey Glover worked together on the dual players’ training schedules, ensuring that they got enough of both, and got enough rest.
For each opponent, he has sat and dissected DVDs of previous performances.
If ever there was proof of the method, it was in the way they calmly picked Monaghan’s Clontibret apart in the Ulster semi-final with a 1-9 to 0-7 win.
They hardly gave a ball away beyond a nervy first 10 minutes.
All of it has led to what is by far the most successful year in Slaughtneil’s history.
Defender Barry McGuigan has been another to enjoy the Moran effect. “A calm head, more than anything,” is what Moran brings, according to the rejuvenated former county man, who at 32 has enjoyed one of his best seasons, despite commuting from south-east England on a weekly basis.
“He knows a lot of our players being a close neighbour to us and from watching us over the years. He’s brought his experience to the table and it’s paid big dividends for us, it’s plain to be seen.”
After completing the ‘double double’ of senior and reserve football and hurling championships on Friday night, and having had strong underage sides over the past 15 years, they want him to stay and build a dynasty.
Moran will no doubt recognise a few faces in the Omagh St Enda’s side.
Barry McGinn and Damien McSorley are assistants to manager Lawrence Strain along the line, and both were on Moran’s team 26 years ago on an afternoon when 2-2 from Paul McElhatton made the difference.
There’ll also be sons of fathers. Omagh utility man Conor Meyler’s father Seanie scored two points that afternoon from centre-forward, while goalkeeper Ryan Clarke’s father Kenny was also on the squad.
Mickey Joe Flanagan was also in the half-forward line back in ’88, and his son Michéal would have been playing had he not departed for Australia at the start of the year.
They may be familiar names and familiar faces but Moran’s focus will be solely on bringing Slaughtneil a first Ulster title this Sunday.