When all eyes were elsewhere following Kilcoo’s All-Ireland Club final victory, manager Mickey Moran did something that few noticed at the time, save for spectator Stephen Annett who had the presence of mind to take a short video that has been viewed almost 150,000 times on Twitter.
Moran dandered towards the Hill 16 goals in the manner of any other 69-year-old man out to get the papers on a Sunday morning. He crouched down just at the small parallelogram and kissed the spot where Jerome Johnston kicked that last-minute All-Ireland-winning goal to grant him coaching immortality.
It was a rare display of public emotion, however private he was trying to be.
After that, while trying to meld into the crowd, he was summoned by joint captain Conor Laverty to help himself and Aidan Branagan lift the Andy Merrigan Cup. Moran was clearly uncomfortable with it all.
That achievement granted him something; the title of All-Ireland-winning manager.
With his 70th birthday coming up, he has now stepped away from the role. Yesterday, he answered the phone and was asked to give a few words. As ever, since he stepped down from the Leitrim management in late 2011, he politely refused.
As it was for the last three years, his selector Conleith Gilligan took us inside the workings as he, Moran and fellow trainer Richard Thornton met with the Kilcoo players on Monday night to break the news of his departure. Gilligan and Thornton will now take over.
“Genuinely, Richie and I left Mickey. We didn’t put him under any pressure for an answer one way or another,” said Gilligan.
“Whatever way he wanted to do it, if he wanted to take a wee break and come back later on, whatever he wanted to do was going to be perfect for us.
“With Mickey, he is all in or he is not in at all. And I suppose that’s the way he wanted to finish. It’s just the travelling and the family, he has another grandchild on the way and he just wanted to spend a bit more time in the house and to focus on his health.
“I am really, really sad to see him go. And in another way, I’m delighted to see him go on his own terms, out at the very top. It happens for very few people and I can’t think of many people who deserve it more.”
Gilligan has been involved with some proper management teams, including Coalisland Na Fianna and Naomh Conaill of Donegal, both of whom were in county finals.
People are genuinely fascinated as to what Moran’s secret is; how he gets teams to reach previously unimagined heights, and the sheer adoration he inspired among players in Slaughtneil and Kilcoo.
“There’s so many things he does, it is very hard to relate them all,” said Gilligan.
“For me, it’s his calmness, the element of control he brings to things. There’s no instant reaction. He’s measured. He never panics. He believes in doing the right things all the time.
“I suppose the one thing is that he was always himself. He never changes to be anybody else, even when things change around him. He just stays true to himself. And that’s the big thing. He is so ordinary in so many ways but the intangible thing he has is that the players just love him.
“His rapport with players, it’s easy to say that when you are winning. But the players who didn’t get playing or didn’t get as much game time as they would have liked, they didn’t change any more than the likes of Conor Laverty. They all had the same opinion.
“That’s the magic of Mickey. If you could have 10% of that, you would be in a good place yourself.”
The question now is what a man like that does with himself.
In the past, Moran has pulled rabbits out of hats. After bringing Mayo to the 2006 All-Ireland final, the next place he fetched up in was Leitrim in 2008.
But there is something about his age, the reasons outlined by Gilligan and his ultimate fulfilment in mid-February that leave us to believe that this really is the end of him in frontline management.
That’s not to say that he has nothing left to offer. On the contrary, he has plenty.
A book about Moran would be a hugely popular venture, but it would need to be pitched as a purist’s coaching book, similar to Hugh Delehunty’s book with Phil Jackson, ‘Sacred Hoops’.
In the meantime, the Ulster Council — or even the wider GAA — should make a move to find a role for him as a coaching tutor.
The pillars of respect, of calmness and responsibility, are coaching touchstones, often lost in the heat of battle when many renowned coaches simply lose control of their emotions.
Moran never deviated away from his principles. He could lead a cultural coaching shift.