GAA Editor @BrianGBarry
Conor Laverty: Mickey Moran made Kilcoo a better club
Last Updated: 14/01/20 3:40pm
Ahead of the 2019, seven county titles had come in the space of ten years for Kilcoo, but the Down kingpins still chased that elusive provincial crown.
Searching for the missing ingredient, they found a boss who is no stranger to winning silverware. Enter Mickey Moran, a manager who had won three of the previous five Ulster club crowns. He proved to have the midas touch, as he helped them over the line to win their first AIB Ulster club title.
"We identified Mickey Moran as the man we would like to be our manager," explains captain Conor Laverty.
"In a way, last year hurt us badly, losing our county title, and we needed to make a statement that this team isn't finished. By getting Mickey, I thought it was a great statement by the club, of their intent and their ambition. Mickey came in and the belief that he has given us has been unbelievable.
"Just Mickey as a person, I do believe that he has made us a better club, he has made us better people and a better team. He has had a serious effect on us, right across the whole club."
"He has made us a better club, he has made us better people and a better team"
Laverty and his teammates have bought into Moran's message
So what has the Derry boss brought to the table?
"I think it's just his honesty," mused Laverty. "He's the most honest man you could ever come across. If something has to be said, he'll say it. That honesty within the squad this year has been invaluable. For him to be able to call it straight, how it is, that has helped us along the way."
Kilcoo boast a 45-strong playing squad, but Moran has the entire group rowing in the same direction, with nobody disillusioned with a lack of game-time.
"I think that's Mickey's main strength - his man-management skills," continued the Monaghan selector. "To have the ability to keep No 1 to No 45 happy, and to be able to keep them pushing, competition for places the whole time. How he has done it has been terrific.
"At some stage, all of them lads would have got game time throughout the Division 1 league. They all would have played at certain times. So each player has been very valuable to the squad, and the competition for places has never been as strong."
As Kilcoo prepare for Sunday's All-Ireland final, the buzz has swept the entire village.
"It's a great place to be as a club. It's great for the supporters and the village itself," Laverty continued.
"[Aaron Branagan] said there was football, mass and sheep in Kilcoo. You probably couldn't describe it any better. That's the truth. There's the chapel, there's a shop and the primary school. That's it within the village. We're a very rural place. The people are steeped with their culture, we're very proud of our history. We're very proud of our culture, we take that very seriously. But the football club is the heartbeat."
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However, on Sunday afternoon they'll face their greatest challenge to date, as they bid to halt Corofin's charge to a three-in-a-row.
"They (Corofin) are looking to put themselves in the bracket as the best club team ever," noted the veteran star.
"They play a great brand of football, you have to admire what they have done and how they play the game. They're going into the game as raging hot favourites, going for three-in-a-row. As a Kilcoo squad, we're just looking to get a performance that would do ourselves and our village proud."
They may be playing up to the role as plucky underdogs, but be under no illusions - Kilcoo have waited long enough for this opportunity. They are going to Croke Park on Sunday to bring the Andy Merrigan Cup back with them into the Mourne County.