Moran and Walsh - Kerry's brothers in arms
By John Harrington
You’ve probably seen the photo at the top of this article somewhere else before now.
It’s the moment Dean Rock flighted in the injury-time free that would have won the All-Ireland Final for Dublin had it gone over the bar instead of drifting wide.
There are far better photos of Rock’s kick, but what makes this one interesting is the positioning of David Moran and Tommy Walsh on the Kerry goal-line.
It looks as though Tommy Walsh is preparing to lift Moran into the air, much like in a rugby line-out, to give him the best opportunity of catching the ball above the bar if Rock’s free was on target.
Their fellow Kerins O’Rahillys club-man, Ger Moran, certainly believes that’s what they’re doing, and is convinced too it’s something the two best friends would have discussed previously as an option if they ever found themselves in such a situation.
Necessity may have been the mother of invention in that very moment, but knowing what he knows about their tight friendship and fondness for talking all things football, Moran reckons it’s a potential plan the duo could have hatched long before then.
“I'd imagine it was something they would have spoken about before, that if they were ever in a scenario like that it would be an option,” said Moran, who coached both players at underage level and was Kerins O’Rahillys Juvenile Club Chairman from 1999 to 2004.
“They’ve always been in tune both on the pitch and off it. You'd never mention one without the other, it's always David and Tommy. They are absolutely inseparable since the cradle, nearly.
“When they weren't playing themselves they'd be beside each other in the stand watching matches and then at half-time they'd be kicking a ball to one another.
“You'd hardly ever see one without the other around the club.
“They're both terrific guys as well, very good club-men. They're great for coming down and helping out with the kids on a Saturday morning or Sunday morning.
“They're always available. They're just very good club-men, they really are, and always have been."
Moran remembers both players being brought to the club by their fathers, former Kerry stars Ogie Moran and Sean Walsh, when they were very young.
From an early age it was obvious they didn’t just have natural ability, but the work ethic to make the most of it.
“I remember back when I was still playing myself and we were in the Tralee Sports complex gym doing some pre-season training and Seanie (Walsh) brought Tommy along.
“Tommy was about nine and he was a bit podgy back then so Seanie had him up on the treadmill!
“He had a bit of puppy fat back then, but he wasn't long losing it. Seanie used to say he was glad he got as big as he did because for a while he was always stealing Seanie's sneakers until he eventually grew out of them.”
As soon as he started playing juvenile football, Tommy Walsh was a phenomenon.
It took David a little longer to develop, but soon they were the twin engines that drove their generation of Kerins O’Rahillys footballers to unprecedented juvenile success.
“David was quite small, believe it or not,” said Moran. “He was a very small at U-12, he was below average.
“He grew gradually and then when he was 16 he got a stretch and got up to not far off the height he is now.
When Tommy was U-12 he was nearly six foot. We'd taking Tommy out after about 10 minutes because he'd have about five goals gone in. He'd be playing full-forward and the lads would just lob it into him.
“He was about six foot but not only was he very big, he was very skilful as well and worked very hard at it. They were always prominent, but Tommy moreso than David.
“They were very successful all the way up along. They won the U-12 'A' in '99/2000, and then two years later won the U-14, and two years after that the U-16. Then they won the county minor 'A' Championship for the first time in the club's history in 2006.”
David Moran showed once again in Sunday’s drawn All-Ireland Final why he’s such a Rolls Royce of a midfielder.
It wasn’t just his athleticism and pure skill that allowed him to dominate the battle for the middle third, his footballing intellect was just telling.
Not many players have the same knack as Moran does to be in the right place most of the time to pick up possession and then create opportunities for others with the timing and range of his passing.
He plays the game with an analytical mind, and Moran believes that’s because he’s always viewed the game through the same prism, even from a very young age.
“When I think of David as a young lad I always remember the 2001 Munster Final,” said Moran.
“Declan Quill from our own club was playing, he was a prominent player at the time. It was a Saturday morning and I was training the kids. Ogie (Moran) came up to me and asked me was I going to the Munster Final
“Ogie couldn't go because his other son Brian was playing a rugby match and David was anxious to go.
“I wasn't sure, I had kids myself and I'd have to arrange something.
“I said, 'Look, I'll find out'. David was standing there, he was just 11, and he says, 'when will you know can you go?'
“I says, 'I don't know, I'll have to find out!’ So I rang home and my wife was okay to take the kids. So the two of us headed to Cork that day.
“Even from the conversation we had you could tell he was so keen. He had the team in his head and he was telling me what changes they should make, that they should be starting Quill because he could dictate the attacking play, all this kind of stuff.
“We were beaten that day by a point and coming home he was analysing the game and saying the sideline have a lot to answer for. At 11 he was coming out with stuff like that!
“Another time Kerry were playing an All-Ireland Final, I think it was 2002. The Kerry juniors were playing in the All-Ireland Final in Thurles the Saturday before the senior final so Ogie and Dave and Brian headed up and took in the senior game in Thurles on the way.
“Mike Quirke had just come on the scene and was a sub with the Kerry juniors. They were in the stand and David goes down to the wire and roars into the Kerry dug-out, 'Bring on Micheal Quirke! Bring on Micheal Quirke!'
“For the second-half the Kerry management and subs went over to the other side of the field but David followed them all the way around and started roaring 'Bring on Mike Quirke! Bring on Mike Quirke!' again.
“That was the kind of guy he was and still is.”
From a young age it seemed Moran’s and Walsh’s destiny was to play together for Kerry.
They fulfilled it when they both won Celtic Crosses in 2009, Walsh winning Man of the Match in the Final against Cork and Moran replacing him as a substitute late in the game.
But then they both headed off to Australia at the end of the year to try their luck in the AFL with St. Kilda. Walsh made the grade and stayed put, but Moran returned home after his trial.
As much as everyone in Kerins O’Rahilly’s would have wished them both well, it was with some relief they welcomed Moran home. Still, the loss of Walsh was a savage one.
“You couldn't imagine how big a blow it was,” said Ger Moran. “I'm sure it's the same now for Dingle with Mark O'Connor. For us as coaches you get a player like Tommy once in a generation.
“To think he was Man of the Match in an All-Ireland Final at 20 years of age after kicking four points from play.
“We probably figured it might happen because he had the build for it. Maybe it happened to late for him, Tadhg Kennelly went when he was a bit younger.
“He did come back and play for us. Whenever he had a break, I don't know if he was allowed, but he played anyway. He was always a bit rusty whenever he came back though.
“And even when he came back full-time it took him a while to get back into it. It's well documented now that maybe he went back in with the Kerry team too soon because he was struggling with the skills and everything else.
“But his club form last year for us was incredible. It was nine out of ten every game, and that forced the Kerry selectors to call him in again.”
Their careers together with Kerry might not have been as linear or successful as would have been predicted at the outset, but both Moran and Walsh now seem keen to make up for lost time.
When Walsh was introduced as a second-half substitute the natural understanding he enjoys on a pitch with Moran tilted the balance of power Kerry’s way for a crucial period of the match.
As well as scoring a point himself, Walsh assisted a Killian Spillane goal and a Sean O’Shea point, and on both of those occasions he claimed possession from long kicked passes into him by his best friend.
“You'll see with Kerry that David is always looking out for Tommy whenever he comes on,” said Moran. “It was the same at underage.
“David was corner-forward beside Tommy at U-12 but then as he got older and bigger he moved out to midfield mainly.
“Tommy always knew when David got the ball that he just had to hold off his man because the ball would be coming in to him.
“Knowing Tommy, he'll be putting pressure on Peter Keane to start him now in the replay. He'll really want to start that replay, just coming on wouldn't be enough for him.
“He holds all the aces in that regard as far as I'm concerned, because he did change the game.”
From a very young age Moran and Walsh have been a great double-act for both club and county, but the best may yet be still to come.