EVEN AMIDST THE wreckage of another All-Ireland final defeat, Mayo’s Andy Moran is still facing the future in an optimistic manner.
For the sixth time in 24 seasons, the Connacht county are left to reflect on their efforts to land Sam Maguire falling short at the final hurdle. But despite the agony of Sunday’s loss to Donegal, their inspirational captain, who was sidelined with a torn cruciate ligament on Sunday, remained upbeat that this bunch of players can attain glory.
“I believe this team is a different team. In 1989 they were coming to the end of a cycle from the 19883 team that won the All-Ireland U21, in 1996 and 1997 there were teams that should have won it, in 2004 and 2006 we weren’t good enough.
“These lads have won All-Irelands at U21, we have won Sigersons, we have won club titles. Listen, we’ll be back again next year and we won’t lie down.
“I believe we’re going to win more than one to be honest. If we win one we’ll keep going. This is a great group of lads and I wouldn’t be surprised in two weeks time if these lads are back training. It took Jim McGuinness two years to win it and if it takes us three years, four or five, we’ll keep fighting and we’ll be back.”
Moran was forced to watch on helplessly from the sidelines during the clash and admitted it was difficult to observe Donegal’s lightning start when they flashed the ball past goalkeeper David Clarke twice.
“It was tough and you’d have been worried. But there was a lot of pride there too with the way we came back. I’d say they were writing us off after ten minutes but with ten minutes to go we were still in the game. One of the great things about this team is that they work things out on the pitch. Unfortunately we just didn’t have enough to pull it back.
“We are devastated. I didn’t sleep too well on Sunday night. You’re always thinking what-ifs and I think over the next few days it will hit us. We probably won’t think about it until Tuesday or Wednesday. That’s the hard thing about defeat – if we had won we probably wouldn’t look at it for a month. It will be a dark few days for the lads.
Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea dejected at the final whistle on Sunday. Pic: INPHO/James Crombie
“The average age of that team is 23 and Alan Dillon was the oldest player playing yesterday and he’s 28. The likes of Kevin Keane, his performance after ten minutes, for the last 60, was outstanding. Colm Boyle was the same, Kevin McLoughlin, Barry Moran – boys like this are leading the way.
“But there were lads there in the dressing-room, and this is no lie, and they were asking Ed Coughlan, strength and conditioning coach, how to improve. The fight until the end is a thing this team has and it gives us something to build on next year.”
Next season is one which Moran is fervently hoping to feature in as he continues his rehabilitation from the injury sustained in last month’s quarter-final victory over Down. Kilkenny’s Henry Shefflin is one player he has probed for advice in dealing with the problem.
“April Fool’s Day was my target. Sunday is March 31 so that’s my aim – seven months from surgery. I met the surgeon on Saturday and everything is going according to plan.
“I’ve torn the ACL and a bit of cartilage as well. I had a few words with Henry Shefflin, who has been very good to me, Colm O’Neill and David Moran. These guys who have done it before and they gave me a bit of advice.
“I think Henry was pretty confident about coming back in to play in that game (All-Ireland 2010) but he just got the same twist in it again and it was gone. I’d say he probably had a few fibres left in it too, mine was totally gone. There was no chance of me playing as mine never improved from the day I got it until surgery so it was a dead duck really.”