THERE is only one place to start this week and that’s with last weekend’s All Ireland club final.
The saying by well-known American educator Thomas H Palmer “if at first you don’t succeed then try again” was never more pertinent than last weekend at Croke Park on numerous levels.
First of all, it applies to a Kilcoo side who broke down the door in their own county a few years ago and then who have been knocking on the door of provincial and national success in the last 24 months.
Then for Mickey Moran himself – a man who has toiled so long for All-Ireland success in his own right as manager after being the coachtrainer for the Derry team in 1993. Mickey suffered final heartbreak with Mayo in 2006, UUJ in 2007, Slaughtneil in 2014 and 2017 and Kilcoo in 2020, so he could’ve thought he would never get to that stage, so you imagine that Saturday, February 12, 2022 will live long in his memory.
Whatever his future intentions, and he’s approaching 70 in April of this year, if he were to take a well-earned break then absolutely no one would begrudge him that. I would have no doubt that his phone would be burning red hot but sure given all he has achieved in the game that is no surprise.
Looking back, it seems that Kilcoo and Mickey were a perfect match. Fair play to them in the early part of 2019, they made their intentions clear that by going after Mickey.
They knew exactly what they wanted and the club gave their players the best possible environment to achieve this.
They had a group of players who were getting to the latter stages of Ulster but for whatever reason failed to make the breakthrough. There is no doubt the team was progressing anyway, but from listening to anyone inside their camp they credit the breakthrough to Mickey and his management team. Given that they themselves speak so highly of him and what he has brought to their camp, I don’t think anyone can disagree with that sentiment.
So what about Mickey Moran, the person. It’s hard to get a full reading of Mickey as he is by his nature a private person.
With those he chooses, there is no doubt he is an open book, but to most outside of that circle he mostly keeps himself to himself. Mickey gave me my debut for Derry in the 2004 season as a 10-stone something 19-year-old.
Against all the odds we ended up going on a run that year and played in an All-Ireland semi-final versus Kerry. He and John Morrison formed a great partnership and it’s good to note that John’s son, Patrick is the goalkeeping coach for Kilcoo and part of the set up.
Obviously county football was a different environment back then but I have to say I really enjoyed those few years. John and Mickey had a great chemistry together and as they tried to integrate a number of younger lads into the squad while also being conscious of results, they made it an environment whereby players wanted to be there.
I remember going on a pre-season trip to Glasgow in March time and on the Saturday afternoon they allowed the players to get together and have the afternoon to enjoy ourselves and have the craic.
It was a great way for players to get to know each other. However when it came to the hard work, they also knew when to get players to dig in and do the hard work and the players were more than happy to do this.
Mickey’s tenure continued the following year where we ended up getting beat by Laois in a fifth round qualifier.
As that was Mickey’s third year of maybe his third stint as coachmanager, he possibly felt that he had given Derry enough and sure the following year he took Mayo to an All Ireland final.
While they probably underperformed on the day, most Mayo players of that vintage have always said it was a mistake to get rid of him after one year as he had brought a freshness and changed the culture within the county.
Post-Mayo, Mickey also went to coach Leitrim where success was measured in the way he left them in a better place and not by the silverware he amassed.
This was to be his last time on the inter-county scene but as he moved onto the club scene even the most positive of people could not have foreseen what he would do over the last eight years.
Whether he has the midas touch, whether it is luck on top of a combination of perseverance and an inner drive, there’s definitely something special he is bringing out in teams year on year.
Whatever it is, the Kilcoo club will be forever eternally grateful to him and no doubt Mickey to them also as he would be the first to note it is a 5050 partnership. When the dust settles they can always look back on the February 12, 2022 as the day when all their stars aligned and they were crowned the high kings of Ireland.