HE WAS ONLY fresh out of the minor grade when he initially burst onto the senior stage in 2005. Yet the pathway to establishing himself has not been straightforward for Barry Moran. The towering Castlebar Mitchels midfielder, who won an All-Ireland U21 football medal in 2006, has had to be patient in coping with a torrid run of injuries.
“I made my championship debut against Kerry in the quarter-final in 2005 but the last couple of years have been ruined by injuries and I haven’t really had a clear run. I picked up a nasty injury at the start of last year year when I broke a bone in my leg in the first week of training.
“It was just a bad tackle and I twisted my knee. I popped ligaments and broke a bone off the top of my fibia. It kept me out for three or four months and I tried to get back for the national league, but I wasn’t up to inter-county standards.”
Spending long spells on the sideline inevitably lead to Moran wondering if he would be able to regain fitness to have a proper attempt at carving a niche at senior level.
“I had to watch from the stands last year which was very frustrating. There has been times when I have picked up injury after injury, and you start looking at yourself and you start thinking “how much more can I take”. But that lasts for just a day or two and after that you are back ready for what has to be done to work even harder.”
Moran’s patience has been rewarded this season as he has become a regular fixture in the Mayo team. As they enter the championship arena next Sunday against Leitrim in the Connacht semi-final, he will be vital to their cause in his natural home at midfield having previously served time at full-forward.
“Thankfully this year I have played every game for Mayo, from the FBD League right through the national league. Since I was a young fellow, midfield has been my natural position. But the fact that I was injured so much my fitness levels were not up to playing at midfield, so I ended up getting thrown into full-forward there because they thought that I could do a job.
“I actually came on at full-forward in the 2006 All-Ireland final and played full-forward under John (O’Mahony) the season that we ended up being beaten by Derry up in Celtic Park. I did enjoy it. It was a total new experience and at the start I was a bit lost but thankfully I got to grips with it. Having said that, I prefer to be out around the middle of the field and letting my legs do a bit of running.”
The midfield sector is one that has been highlighted as a weakness in the Mayo side with Moran, a 26 year-old accountant based in Castlebar, partnered by newcomer Danny Geraghty on Sunday in a switch from the league final loss to Cork. The theme of change has been maintained since last August’s All-Ireland semi-final loss to Kerry when the O’Shea brothers, Aidan and Seamus, were in the middle. Injury has stalled their progress this year but ultimately Moran is optimistic about the side’s progress and welcomes the recent return of the long-serving Ronan McGarrity to the setup.
“With every team, the middle third is vital and when you are not playing well in the middle third, you are going to lose games. But having said that, I think we have an abundance of talent there. Hopefully this is the season where a couple of us can get up there and establish ourselves and if there is that myth out there it is up to us to show that its not true.
“It is brilliant to have Ronan back. I have played with him before and he is a lovely fellow. He is going to add even more competition. The great thing about this panel is that everyone talks about Mayo history and the things that happened previously but to be honest we couldn’t care about any of it. We just keep our head to the ground and we know that we have to work hard.”