By Coilin Duffy
Andy Moran is missing the craic of being involved in the Mayo senior football squad — but not all the preparation work required to play at the top level.
The 36-year old called time on his 19-year inter-county career at the end of last year’s championship, after winning eight Connacht titles, one National League, and two All-Star awards, including the 2017 GAA Footballer of the Year accolade.
“I’ll be perfectly honest, I’m not missing it at all in terms of the preparation, the body-fat tests, the nutrition. I’m not missing any of that,” Moran told the Western People.
“I was at the last Mayo-Kerry game and a few other games and there wasn’t one part of me that was missing any part of the set-up, which is a good thing.
“Then the negative side is that you would miss the boys and the craic. I’d be naturally nosy by nature and I don’t know everything that’s going on. I don’t know who’s injured. And you don’t pry with the lads. So you do lose a tiny bit of contact along the way and you would miss that sort of thing. But, yeah, it’s been ok. I left it and I went back in coaching the Mayo under-20s and I’m doing a bit of coaching with my own club so I have filled the time.”
And it was for precisely that reason — to help fill the void — that Moran followed through with what had always been his immediate plan, to go into coaching. He is relatively happy with how it’s going so far.
“I had that planned in my head that when I’d leave I’d go straight into coaching. It has worked well for me and if someone came to me now looking for advice I would say don’t just let yourself go, go and do something and see how it goes, because it’s worked well for me.”
The Ballaghaderreen forward was attending last Tuesday’s announcement of McKeever Sports as an official GAA teamwear supplier.
“I walked into Croke Park today, saw the stadium. Would I love to go out kicking ball? Of course I would. But, sure, listen, these things happen,” he said.
“[Coaching] was always a thing I was going to try. It’s something I’d have really good respect for.
“I have massive respect for coaching in general because I don’t think anyone knows who’s going to be good at it.
“I’m going into coaching now and I’m giving myself five years and if I’m not good enough I’ll move along then, because I genuinely don’t know.
“I did the under-20s and thought I did some things really well and other things I’d be like, ‘Mmmm’. You’d know if you’re helping them out or not.
“I’ll go and assess and do a few things and come back and the goal is to be involved in your own county at senior level.
“But I’ll go away and do a few years somewhere else first before I go near that.”
To become an elite coach is a goal of Moran’s. In particular, it’s his ultimate ambition to coach or manage the Mayo senior footballers.
“The aim is to do something like that but again, there’s an awful lot of pitfalls in it,” he said. “Donie Buckley did six years non-stop with us while, when I look at it now, I did three or four months with the Mayo under-20s. For people not to be getting stale in four months was tough, and Donie Buckley managed to avoid that for a six-year stint.
“There’s such a road ahead of us and the important thing is to not just rush in but to take your time and kind of learn as much as you can learn and then move it on from there.”
Moran is making plenty of inroads already and has got stuck in with the Ballaghaderreen senior team.
“I took my first session last Sunday week with Barry Maguire. The two of us will do it together. And he’s still kicking away too. I’ll do a bit of playing as well. In the coaching game, I believe that if you do go into it you don’t have time to waste.
“We got beat on penalties in the under-20s on February 8 against Galway and if I don’t coach now until next November that’s 10 months that I’m missing. I don’t think you can do it in your game, I don’t think you can do it in the coaching game, you have to be learning.
“Even the new kick-out rule, the new mark rule, if you miss 10 months of coaching that, then you’re 10 months behind.”
Until the Government and, subsequently, sporting organisations, acted decisively in response to the Coronavirus outbreak, Mayo were expecting to be playing make-or-break Division 1 matches against Galway last Sunday and Tyrone this weekend. A suspension, however, of all GAA activity until after March 29 at the earliest, has left the whole National Football League season in the balance.
When or if the campaign does resume, Moran believes Galway would love nothing better than to assist in Mayo’s relegation from the top flight, with maximum points for the Green and Red from both fixtures not even carrying the absolute guarantee of safety.
“Ballaghaderreen has a funny relationship with Galway because of Johnno [O’Mahony]. He brought the Sam Maguire to St Nathy’s College in ’98 when they won it. We followed Joyce, Donnellan and these boys because Johnno was our coach in school and he was the coach of Galway, so we followed them all through that era.
“We got John O’Mahony in his pomp when he was the best manager in Ireland. We were very, very lucky. But it doesn’t hide the fact that I’m sure Padraic Joyce would absolutely love to do one on Mayo when they play.
“I do think that Mayo are ready. I do think James [Horan] is building a nice team. I think he’s providing young players… it reminds me a bit of 2010. In 2010 we got to a league final and then we lost to Sligo and Longford [in the championship]. But look at all the players who played; Donie Vaughan, Aidan O’Shea, Seamie O’Shea, that was all their breakthrough year. Hopefully,2020 is that year, so that when James comes into 2021 he’ll be pushing them on.”