It won’t come as a shock but Mayo supporters everywhere will feel a sense of profound sadness at the news that was confirmed a few hours ago – Andy Moran has retired from inter-county football.
Andy made his announcement in an interview with Richie Sadlier on the Second Captains podcast, which is due to go online in the morning. Here’s the tweet which contains an extract from the podcast in which Andy breaks the news:
Mayo’s Andy Moran, 2017 Footballer Of The Year, has announced his retirement from inter-county football. Speaking exclusively on The Player’s Chair, one of the iconic faces of the GAA told @RichieSadlier he has called it a day. Coming tomorrow morning to https://t.co/uxcODKouWE pic.twitter.com/2FGX3dT1zm— Second Captains (@SecondCaptains) August 26, 2019
Andy’s announcement brings down the curtain on a Mayo career like no other. A senior inter-county player for seventeen years, the Ballaghaderreen man won eight Connacht titles, a National League title, two All-Stars and, in 2017, the Footballer of the Year award. There truly was only one Andy Moran.
Andy’s first taste of inter-county action came at underage level. He was on the county’s Minor Championship panel in 2000 and 2001 and the U21 panel in 2003. It was in 2003 as well that he first broke into the senior ranks, with his first competitive appearance taking place in a National League match against Down up in Newcastle on the 9th of February that year.
We won that day and, although Andy didn’t score on his debut, he got off the mark in the next game when he bagged 1-1 in a match in which we lost by a point to Laois at Ballinrobe.
Andy made his Championship debut at senior level in 2004 and he did so over at Gaelic Park against New York. He was used exclusively as a sub that summer, when John Maughan’s team made it all the way to the All-Ireland final. That included an appearance off the bench in the final itself, where Andy replaced Conor Mortimer and bagged his first score – a point – in an All-Ireland decider.
But that game ended in defeat. As well as the 2004 final, Andy also featured in the lost deciders of 2006, 2013, 2016 and 2017. He would undoubtedly have played in the 2012 final too, only for the cruciate injury he picked up that summer in the quarter-final against Down. What a difference his presence would have made were he to have been okay to play against Donegal. What a particularly cruel what-might-have-been that was.
It was six years before then that Andy first came to national prominence. After our shock victory over Dublin in the 2006 All-Ireland semi-final, it was revealed that, as he was being readied to come on in the second half, Andy promised manager Mickey Moran that he’d get the goal the Derry man was imploring him to conjur up. He did too, as we stormed back from seven down to win that classic encounter by a point.
Andy’s infectious smile after scoring the goal was only overshadowed that day by Ciaran MacDonald’s outrageous winning point. But Andy’s persona – as a happy-go-lucky, bubbly, positive character – was already clear for all to see. It’s one Mayo supporters have come to cherish down the years since then.
There are so many moments to pick out from his long, illustrious career for the county. Here are two of my favourites.
The first came late on in the Connacht Championship quarter-final against Galway in Salthill in 2013. We’d already whipped them mercilessly into submission when, in the closing stages, Andy was sprung from the bench to make his first appearance since he’d sustained the cruciate injury the previous summer. And he only went and did this.
The second was also a goal, this time from his second All-Star season in 2017. When this one went in against Kerry, it was the moment that it began to dawn on many of us that Andy was now in pole position to be crowned Footballer of the Year as well. What a goal it was (it’s a minute into this highlights clip).
But now it’s over. Time stands still for none of us, not even the wonderful, irrepressible Andy Moran. Of course he shouldn’t be retiring without an All-Ireland medal but none of us – least of all Andy – needs telling just how cruel sport can be.
But Andy retires as one of the truly great players to have worn the Mayo jersey. Those of us who have seen him ply his trade for the county all these years are lucky to have done so. I’m not alone in knowing that these are memories to be treasured.
So farewell then, Andy Moran. You leave the stage with huge thanks from Mayo fans everywhere for all your efforts down the years in an era like no other to be following this great team of ours. Like you said yourself, we were all in it together at a time when you were so often leading the charge for us. And what a time it was. Thanks for the memories, Andy.