We shouldn’t have been surprised that Kerry and Mayo served up a game to savour in Sunday’s drawn All-Ireland SFC semi-final.
A glance through both squads identifies players of no little skill, tenacity and courage. Many of the personnel on view were also involved in the counties’ semi-final saga from 2014, which also went to a replay.
After a Bank Holiday weekend of painfully one-sided games, this latest Kerry-Mayo renewal certainly enlivened the championship and one man who stood out was Andy Moran.
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The Ballaghaderreen stalwart contributed 1-05 of Mayo’s total and had a hand in four other scores in a man-of-the-match performance.
On a day when others found it difficult to deal with the greasy ball as steady rain poured down, Moran gave a masterclass in how it should be done. He hardly fumbled a ball all day, caressing it closely it to his chest, jinking and weaving. His marker Shane Enright had a difficult day at the office.
Observations before a game can give strong clues as to what’s to come.
Jack O’Shea took careful note of Moran’s routine prior to Sunday’s game.
"He was sliding on the ground five to 10 yards from the ball to actually grip it," Kerry great O’Shea revealed on the RTÉ GAA Podcast.
"He used the conditions to his advantage. He’s such a clever player. "
Moran will turn 34 this coming November and no doubt much cleverness has been acquired in his 14 seasons with the Green and Red.
His opportunism was in evidence when he stole in behind Dublin’s Shane Ryan to score the goal that launched Mayo’s comeback in that classic All-Ireland semi-final with the Dubs in 2006. In 2013 he was at the end of another fine move to goal against the same opposition. In between and thereafter he has contributed fine scores from an array of angles.
Last Sunday, you could say, was his finest hour in the Mayo jersey. He may be reaching the twilight of his career, but Moran is determined to give more defences a merry dance. As of now he is on track to win a second All Star.
The legendary Mick O’Dwyer was named Football of the Year at the age of 33, while aged 34, Colm O’Rourke single-handedly drove Meath to within a whisper of reeling in Down in the ’91 All-Ireland final. The number on the birth cert is obviously no barrier to Moran as he strives to finish his career with a flourish
As for silverware, Moran has eight Connacht medals to show for his toil to date. What’s missing from the mantelpiece is that elusive All-Ireland medal. Humbling defeats to Kerry followed by narrow losses to Dublin sums up Moran’s experiences on football’s biggest day. And then there was 2012 – a knee injury forced him to watch the final from the sidelines as Donegal kept Mayo at arms length.
Moran’s former manager John Maughan also heaped praise on the player in the aftermath of his exploits against Kerry.
"Mayo wouldn't have come within an ass’s roar of Kerry if they didn't have Andy Moran," was Maughan’s assessment when he spoke on the RTÉ GAA Podcast.
"I don't anybody who has played the full-forward role as well as Andy in recent times. He knows how to play it, just look at the runs he makes, his energy, his timing.
"How could you think of not playing him from the start?"
And so to Saturday’s replay at Croke Park. Can Moran be as influential again?
If he is, then Kerry have a problem, according to Jack O’Shea.
"Éamonn Fitzmaurice will have a couple of sleepless nights figuring out how he's going to stop the ball getting into Andy Moran and who's going to contest it with him.
"The way he played against Kerry, well you'd have pity for any defender trying to mark him.
"Andy Moran will be crucial if Mayo do go on to win an All-Ireland this year."
What a glorious way it would be to end a career if the latter comes to pass.