MICKEY Moran “will go down as an absolute legend in Kilcoo” after stepping down last night as manager of the All-Ireland club champions.
The Derry man last month guided the Mourne club to an incredible first national success, snatched away from Kilmacud Croke's thanks to a last-gasp Jerome Johnston goal at the end of extra-time.
Club chairman Roger Morgan told The Irish News that Moran’s place in the club’s history was secured, and that he went with their “very best wishes”.
Assistant managers Conleith Gilligan and Richie Thornton will take over as joint managers, just weeks ahead of the start of the Down club leagues.
“We always thought Mickey would be the man to take us over the line and as it worked out, he did,” said Morgan.
“In three years, we won three county championships, two Ulsters in-a-row and an All-Ireland.
“He got us to two All-Ireland finals. Taking Corofin to extra-time in 2020 was a hell of an achievement, but to get over the line this year, Mickey will go down as an absolute legend in Kilcoo.
“When the history is written, there will be more than a few paragraphs about Mickey and what he’s done.
“Conleith and Richie will take over as joint-managers. We’re obviously delighted that they are staying on.
“We had to respect Mickey’s wishes, with the travel and all the rest that was involved in it, he felt that he needed to stand down.
“The players absolutely adored Mickey, they would have done anything for him.”
The Magpies’ chairman also said that there “were a few tears shed” on all sides last night when Moran met the players to inform them of his decision.
“He goes with our very best wishes for the future and our eternal thanks for what he has brought to this club.”
While there is no confirmation that the decision means the end of Moran’s managerial career, it appears almost certain that the 69-year-old will retire from the sideline.
If so, it would bring the curtain down on one of the game’s most illustrious coaching journeys from which he would go out at the very top.
Last month’s All-Ireland final was his fifth in a managerial career that had its first major success with a Tyrone county title won with Omagh in 1988.
The Maghera man managed his native county three times and was the team’s trainer under Eamonn Coleman for Derry’s sole All-Ireland success in 1993.
He also had spells in charge of Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal and Mayo, had lost national deciders with Mayo (2006), Slaughtneil (2015 and 2017) and Kilcoo (2020) before finally getting over the line.
Many believed the extra-time defeat by Corofin two years ago could have been Kilcoo's chance at an All-Ireland gone, but they came back to retain their provincial title after the 2021 Covid interruption, and then made it all the way to the steps of the Hogan Stand.
Moran's presence on the steps as the Andy Merrigan Cup was lifted was an abiding and emotional image of the journey, with joint captain Conor Laverty halting his speech and insisting he wouldn't resume until Moran reluctantly joined him and Aidan Branagan to lift the trophy.
Speaking after the game, Laverty said that the Kilcoo players had endeavoured to ensure Moran was able to add an All-Ireland to his CV.
“We spoke about that as players recently. Over the past few weeks, we spoke about when that man pulls out at the top of the lane for the last time – and hopefully that’s not for a while yet – that he’s going out that lane as an All-Ireland winning manager.”
That last turn out the top of the lane came last night, with Mickey Moran’s legacy secured in Kilcoo and beyond.