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Unexpected Mickey Moran Half-Time Talk Helped Turn Kilcoo Fortunes

Unexpected Mickey Moran Half-Time Talk Helped Turn Kilcoo Fortunes
By PJ Browne

Kilcoo stepped off the Croke Park at half-time on Saturday looking like their dream was becoming a nightmare. They'd scored just two points and trailed Kilmacud Crokes by six.

In the second half, the Down champions awoke, and slowly reeled in Crokes. Paul Devlin scored an equalising point at the end of normal time, and then in injury time of extra-time - with Kilcoo behind by two - Jerome Johnston hit the winning goal. The Down village with a population of 1,500 were All-Ireland champions.

Post-match, half-back Eugene Branagan revealed that the usually reserved Mickey Moran had "lost the rag at half-time". Moran, a legendary coach, was identified by the Kilcoo players in 2018 as the man to help them win an All-Ireland.

"That's what makes him great," Kilcoo joint-captain Conor Laverty told BBC Sounds' The GAA Social podcast about Moran.

"You can bang tables week after week, after week, but you lose the effect of that. He had never, ever done that with us. When he needed the kick, whenever he needed the response, he used every tool in his box.

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"It wasn't even planned. He just spoke from the heart. He told us very, very honestly what we were at in the first half. He just called it straight. It was actually disappointing that we let him down in the first half. That was the furthest thing away from what we wanted to do for that man.

"He challenged us on our performance. He challenged us on our character. He told us that he was disappointed in us. That hit. You could see it in his eyes, that he was disappointed with us. That was the first time I had ever seen that. That was gut-wrenching. You could see everyone in the room, they actually put their heads down. You didn't feel right looking the man in the eye because you had let him down.

'Mickey Moran will always be a part of Kilcoo'

"That's why it was so emotional after for us with him because we had taken him to a place where we had let him down, and then an hour later we had put him in the best place, hopefully, of his life.

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"Mickey and us, it was the last piece of the jigsaw. Mickey needed us, and we needed him. Both parties wanted the same goal. Mickey was there in '93 [as a coach when Derry won the All-Ireland] but it was still said that Mickey Moran wasn't a manager of an All-Ireland winning team.

"When he came to Kilcoo, we made him a promise, that we were going to do that for him. We craved that. Everyone says, 'Ah, ye had great years gone past'. Yes, we won in Down, Ulster, but you still got beat. You still woke up the next morning with that feeling in your stomach saying, 'You were beat. A good year, but you were beat'. There was no one beating you yesterday or today. You had done what you set out to achieve.

"It's a bug, addictive craic this football. You do be thinking in your head, 'Right, we'll get back on the horse here, and we'll be ready to go again'. It'll not be a case where you're going in soft next year."

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12 February 2022; Kilcoo joint-captains Conor Laverty, left, and Aidan Branagan lift the Andy Merrigan cup with manager Mickey Moran after the AIB GAA All-Ireland Senior Club Football Championship Final match against Kilmacud Crokes, Dublin, at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

36-year-old Laverty said he will not be retiring following the win. He added "Mickey Moran will always be a part of Kilcoo" but doesn't know if the Derry man will return as manager next season.

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"I know there's been great teams that have won everything," said Laverty.

"You're always looking, and you're jealous of them. You look at teams and you say, 'I wish that could be us. I wish we could get there some day'.

"I know people say, 'Ah, you play the rural card very well', but for such a small place... Kilmacud have over 200 under-9s, we have 13 under-9s. It's mad. For them wee lads to have dreams of going and playing...

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"I get addicted to watching the Gooch's show, whenever he was a wee boy, going on the team bus in the early 90s to watch Dr Crokes win an All-Ireland final, and then him going and playing, it's the stuff of dreams."

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