September 17, 1993
Mickey Moran has served Derry football in every playing position.
A stint as team manager and now a selector-coach - his pay day could be close at hand
Eamonn Coleman is nationally recognised as the man who, more than any, guided Derry to this year's All-Ireland final. Within the boundaries of the Oak Leaf County, however, the credit for Doire's 1993 coming into being goes not just to one man but is administered sparingly amongst the entire backroom staff. When Coleman took hold of the Derry reins in September of '91 Mickey Moran was appointed as one of his right hand men and a fruitful mutual working relationship was quickly struck. Two years later, as the Derrymen prepare to take their place on centre stage, Moran remains one of the vital cogs in their machine. And just days before the big climax the trainer/selector points out that his team will be going for the juglar on Sunday. He knows only too well that if they fall at the final hurdle months of sweat and toil will have been for NOTHING. "Obviously I'm pleased with our performances so far but I'll be more pleased if we get a result on Sunday. It's no use going down to the final and not winning it. We're pleased to get this far but you have to be realistic about it -We've won nothing yet!"
As a player Moran was one of Derry's best. The ever reliable Maghera man played Senior football for his county in all of the fifteen standard positions. He started out as an orthodox forward and finished his playing days at wing half back. His Senior inter-county debut in 1970 is one game that he will never forget. The occasion was a National League clash against defending champions Mayo, and Mickey, who was a Minor at the time, had just been drafted into the panel. Derry's first choice goalkeeper was involved in a car crash en route to the match and (you've guessed it!) yours truly was called upon to play custodian for the day. He recalls that his first touch was to pick the ball out of the net, but Derry went on to record a fine victory. It wasn't until twelve years later in another League game, this time against Roscommon, that Moran donned the county jersey for the last time.
The Derry trainer is no stranger to the big occasion and has himself played once in a Cork/Derry All-Ireland final. He helped his county to two Ulster Minor titles in '69 and '70 and in 1969 it was none other than the young Rebels they met in the curtain raiser to Kerry's All-Ireland triumph over Offaly. Moran played centre half back as the Munster lads claimed a narrow two point victory. As an U-21 for Derry he had no luck in the medal stakes but he went on to win Ulster Senior medals in '75 and '76. In 1975 Down were defeated on a 1-16 to 2-6 scoreline in the provincial decider and the following year Cavan were pipped by three points after a replay and extra time. Seventeen years later those two successes still represent the last time a team has recorded back to back Championships in the most competitive of the four provinces.
Tactical decisions from the Derry bench have been inspired throughout their 1993 Championship campaign and appropriate switches made at key moments have regularly been instrumental in swinging games Derry's way. As part of the brains behind such moves Mickey Moran commands a great deal of respect in the northern county. A schoolteacher at St. Mary's High School in Limavady, teaching mainly P.E., the South Derryman had a stint as Derry manager himself before linking up with Eamonn Coleman's team. That was between 1980 and '84 when Derry were going through something of a lean spell in Ulster and came about "basically because nobody else wanted the job". For two of those four years Moran acted as player-manager for the Senior county team.
The P.E. teacher played his club football with the Glen club, alias Wattie Graham G.F.C. in Maghera - current home to the prolific Enda Gormley and the McCusker brothers. The club was at Junior level for most of Moran's playing days there but he did pick up two Intermediate Championships and was still involved in an official capacity with Glen up until this year. A regular choice on Ulster's team in the late seventies, the Derryman was left wing back on the team which lifted the Railway Cup in '79 and he rates Down pair Colm McAlarney and Peter Rooney as two of the best players he ever played alongside. He also lined out with the likes of John Egan and Pat Spillane on a Rest of Ireland selection around that time. The present day Derry selector played Railway Cup for four years and considers representing Ulster to be the undoubted highlight of his career.
In it's own unique manner each Derry performance has provided Moran with a great degree of satisfaction. He explains: "We were very single-minded and our concentration was excellent in the first game against Down. We finished well against Monaghan and even though we didn't score very much we played lovely football against Donegal in the second half. We got up off our knees in the Dublin game and put in a great second half performance. I'm not totally happy with our performances but I will be if it all comes together on September 19th." Because of his own intimate involvement in the games and the concentration needed for the task at hand the trainer doesn't get much opportunity to savour the game when Derry's Seniors take to the field these days. "If you're involved in a role where you can determine switches you are either very excitable or very detached - I tend to be very detached. I don't get to enjoy the game because I'm too involved, he points out.
It is Moran's belief that no individual more than any other has brought this Derry team to the brink of glory. A great collective effort from the whole panel is what he credits for Derry's first All-Ireland final appearance since 1958. "It's a total team effort," he argues. "After the disastrous display against Donegal in the quarter-final of the National League we had to stand up and be counted and take a good hard look at ourselves. We decided to go for it 100%". When Derry promised so much and yet failed to deliver in recent Championships was Moran beginning to wonder would the breakthrough come: You always have questions but you have to have the belief that your players have the ability and the reserve strength to pull through. Against Monaghan we brought on McCormack, Brolly and McCusker as substitutes and they all played well. The depth in strength is a very pleasing aspect of our game," he remarks.
The Maghera man admits to being "quite knowledgeable" on Cork football, knowing many of their players from Sigerson and inter-university football competitions, and he is a good friend of their Minor team manager Father McCarthy. "Cork will be as tough - if not tougher -than Dublin. It's stupid what people are saying about them not being tested so far. You simply don't have an easy run through the Championship. In terms of football the county is very strong, they have good pedigree and are a very strong unit up front. I wasn't a bit surprised to see them reach the final and I've been very impressed with their performances so far. Mayo had a lot of possession and looked as good as them up to the 21 yard line but were bereft of ideas after that. Cork's defence coped well and their forwards wore the Mayo defence down," he observes. Moran is nonetheless confident that Derry can overcome the Rebel challenge: "I'm not saying we're going to win but we're certainly not going down there to get beat.
Mickey Moran is not in the dark when it comes to pinpointing Cork's strengths and the steps his team will have to take to counteract the dangers which arise. He feels that it is imperative for Derry to take measures to thwart the Leesiders' short hand-passing game. "They play a lovely brand of football and can get in for goals but hopefully we can cut them out. A good team's defence starts up front and off the ball the whole team must defend," he notes.
Although an All-Ireland title was a definite aim when their Championship season kicked off on May 30th last the objectives in the Derry camp were clear form the word go - "Concentrate" on each game as it comes." The trainer is full of praise for the efforts which have been put in by everybody involved: "Speaking in terms of commitment shown, it outreaches anything I've ever known. All the players and management staff deserve a lot of credit. They've put in hours upon hours upon hours of dedication and it's been a magnificent team effort." Is this Derry team on the verge of greatness? "Each time we play we realise that it the old players in the squad are all in good shape and as long as they remain we could do well in future years. The good thing about our Championship run is that the younger players have all got valuable experience. If we win the All-Ireland a lot will depend on whether or not it goes to their heads. But they have a good attitude. They celebrate well but when you call a stop to it they get back to business," points out the former Glen clubman.
Mickey Moran is married to Rita and has three children Antoin (12), Conleth (9) and Caoimh (1). His father Charlie played in goal for his county and was on the famous Derry team which won the National League in 1947. It was a great double (and a proud moment) for the Moran family then when Mickey was involved with the team which brought the League back to Derry for the second time last year. But if Henry Downey raises Sam aloft on Sunday it would be the greatest achievement of them all.
Written by the Hogan Stand Magazine.
17th Sept. 1993
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