‘He got a guard of honour from our players last night’ – Kilcoo salute departing manager Moran

ALL-IRELAND CHAMPIONS Kilcoo will be “forever grateful” to Mickey Moran following his decision to step down as manager after guiding the Down club to glory earlier this year.

News of his departure was first reported by the Irish News, as the Derry native brings the curtain down on another successful period of his managerial career. Assistant managers Conleith Gilligan and Richie Thornton will take over as joint managers of the club as the new season looms.

Moran brought the Down outfit to their first senior All-Ireland title following a dramatic extra-time battle with Kilmacud Crokes in Croke Park last month. Kilcoo, who previously contested the 2020 showpiece, clinched victory after a late goal from Jerome Johnston.

In addition to the All-Ireland crown, Moran has also managed Kilcoo to three county championship titles and two Ulster titles during his time in charge.

“It’s unbelievable when you think of where we’ve come from when we sought Mickey out to come and manage the team in 2018,” Kilcoo PRO Michael Kane told The42 as he recalled the early days of the Moran era.

“The players are a very ambitious group and we knew there was more in them, and we needed the best man in Ulster to take us over the line.

“He did that in his first year – won Down, won Ulster and then took us to an All-Ireland final against Corofin. We lost a year with Covid, we got our county championship but never got to progress and it was probably our best year in terms of performances under Mickey.

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“We all know what happened in the recent months when we became Ulster champions for the second time and our very first All-Ireland. He was a massive part of bringing success to the club and we’re indebted to him.

“He’ll forever go down as a legend with the respect he has among the people in Kilcoo.”

Commenting on the background of Moran’s exit, Kane explained how the squad took a break on the back of their All-Ireland success. Moran then made contact with the club chairman Roger Morgan over the weekend to request a meeting with the players, which took place last night.

Kane says that it was an emotional evening as Moran informed the camp of his intention to step away after overseeing the most successful period in the club’s history.

“The players were all there. Even the ones that were away were involved through zoom to be part of it. It was an emotional evening. It wasn’t totally unexpected, we thought it was coming but Mickey decided that he wanted to go out at the top and he thanked the club for everything. He had so much good to say about the players and their attitude and commitment.

“We’re sad to see him go but we totally respect and understand his decision. Taking the travelling involved and his recent health scares, we totally respect his decision and we’re forever grateful for what he’s brought to our club.”

One of the most enduring images from Kilcoo’s victory over Kilmacud Crokes was the sight of Moran walking down to the goals at the Hill 16 end and kissing the ground after the game.

Having suffered All-Ireland heartache as manager of other teams in the past, Kilcoo’s achievement was all the more significant for Moran. And he marked the moment with a poignant gesture to the turf in Croke Park.

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Kane notes that the players were determined to deliver for their manager as much as themselves.

“It’s pure class. The effort and commitment he has shown to our guys, it’s nothing more than he deserves. We’re delighted for him that he can go out at the top and he got a guard of honour from our players as he travelled out the lane last night. He bowed out as an All-Ireland champion so what better way to go.

“What he put in place, his coaching ability and what he’s brought to the table, he’s the reason why we were back in Croke Park and he was like a father figure over our players.

“They wanted to win it for themselves but they wanted Mickey to get up them steps as well because I know, not just with Kilcoo, he had hard luck with Slaughtneil and a couple of inter-county All-Irelands.”

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