TV and Radio

TV Review: Kevin Moran's amazing All-Ireland winning and Man United soccer career will never be repeated

1970s Dublin Gaelic footballers (L-R) Jimmy Keaveny, Kevin Moran. Sean Doherty and Tony Hanahoe
Billy Foley

Kevin Moran:  Codebreaker, RTE 1, Monday and RTE Player 

The Kevin Moran story will almost certainly never happen again. 

He won two All-Ireland medals with Dublin before winning two FA Cup medals with Manchester United and representing the Republic at a World Cup and European Championship. 

It’s a stunning tale of ability, commitment and bravery superbly told in Codebreaker

Moran broke into the Dublin team in the mid-1970s as a teenager and had two All-Ireland medals by the age of 21. 

He was a naturally powerful athlete and was incredibly brave, a factor which would later endear him to the Old Trafford faithful. 

He initially turned down the interest of a Man United scout but accepted the offer of a trial on the second asking. 

He hedged his bets while playing for the United seconds, incredibly slipping out of Manchester to play a Leinster final with Dublin in 1978 without telling his bosses. 

As Moran said with a laugh, this was in the days before social media. 

1980s Manchester United footballers (L-R) Norman Whiteside, Bryan Robson and Kevin Moran

They were also the days before concussion protocols and player welfare.  Moran got nine stitches in the head after an opponent’s knee hit his forehead and also played on with a pulled hamstring in that Leinster final.

One of his teammates noted about the limping Dubliner:  “He looked like someone from Custer’s last stand.” 

He was quite a sight returning to Manchester and had to explain what happened.   

Representatives of the Dublin county board paid a visit to England before the next match asking for permission for Moran to play and incredibly, the manager at the time, Dave Sexton agreed. 

But Moran soon decided he was going to concentrate on soccer and made his first team debut in April 1979. 

He joined a team which had a strong Irish connection, including Frank Stapleton, Norman Whiteside and the great Paul McGrath. 

Moran played for United for 10 years and is regarded as one of the club’s great centre backs. 

The abiding image of him is with a bandage around his head and blood streaming down his face. 

Brian Robson said his teammates at the time counted and the Dubliner got 52 stitches in his first two seasons alone. 

In one famous scene against Arsenal, Moran is almost knocked unconscious after a clash of heads in the box, blood pouring out of his face and only staying on his feet with the help of the referee. 

He gets a standing ovation from the Stretford End as he is taken away on a stretcher and sends them into raptures when he responds with a thumbs up and a clenched fist while lying prostrate. 

New manager Alex Ferguson moved him on in 1988 but this coincided with a wondrous journey for the Republic under Jack Charlton. 

Moran (67) looks in super condition as he joins Dublin and Manchester United teammates for this documentary, and long may he continue, but his brain must have taken some punishment in his playing years. 

Moran won two FA Cup medals with Man Utd

Concussion was never mentioned then and it was the one miss of Codebreaker that we didn’t hear Moran’s views of being allowed to play on and whether there has been any effect on his long-term health. 

Player welfare is one of the many reasons why his story seems unrepeatable. 

Others include the prevalence of video of junior matches which mean that few talents get into their late teens, never mind their twenties, before with getting spotted by the worldwide talent scouts and agencies. 

For these reasons, we should celebrate Moran as one of the greatest Irish sportsman who played at the highest level in two codes.

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