By Damian Dolan
Adrian Moyles is used to being thrown in at the deep end. He was just 18 when made his first start for London at corner forward against Galway in the 2009 Connacht Championship quarter-final at Ruislip, and nine years on nothing’s changed.
An attacking player by nature, Moyles’ performances at half back for the Exiles in the National League this year have been nothing short of a revelation.
You’d be forgiven for thinking he’d been playing in the number seven jersey his whole career.
Far from it. A run out in a challenge match against Wexford the week before Carlow visited McGovern Park for the sides’ Division 4 opener was all the match preparation he was afforded.
It’s proved to be an inspired switch which has allowed Moyles to draw upon his soccer background – he was on the books of Chelsea, QPR and Brentford and represented the Republic of Ireland at every age level from Under 15 to Under 21.
“It’s come on quite nicely – it feels comfortable,” said Moyles. “You spend a lot of time watching Gaelic football, studying other teams and players, so when you’re thrust into that position you pick it up quite quickly.
“You just have to see the danger and the opportunities, and if there are opportunities for you to add value going forwards then you do that.
“Defending is a skill, it’s something you can work on. Your tackling technique, your ability to press. That’s stuff you can learn.
“Being a forward for the last ten years, it’s [defending] not something that would have been high on your agenda. It requires a bit of a shift in mind-set.”
Despite his new defensive responsibilities, those attacking instincts certainly haven’t deserted him. In the Exiles’ opening three games against Carlow, Wicklow and Limerick, Moyles has chipped in with 0-7 (5f).
And if Anthony McDermott hadn’t been in the right place at the right time to bang home the equalising goal against the Treaty men, Moyles would have, such was his desire to get into the square.
“I started off as corner forward, but I never wanted to always be a corner forward. I always felt I had a bit more to contribute around the pitch, especially when we were in possession,” he added.
Moyles’ Republic of Ireland peers included James McCarthy, but like others who have flourished in the GAA after spells in soccer, he has no regrets. “Good memories, but I wouldn’t say I miss it.
I had a good run at it. You form some fantastic life experiences in your formative years. You did and experienced things which your average 17 or 19-year-old wouldn’t even dream of.
“When you step away from that environment it’s being able to take those experiences and apply them to this, and your professional career.”
Moyles’ willingness to embrace what other sports have to offer, and bring them into GAA, is an open-mindedness he shares with London boss Ciaran Deely, who works with the QPR Academy.
“Ciaran’s concept for football is a bit left field. It’s very different from your standard Gaelic football manager,” said Moyles, who captained St Kiernan’s to a first-ever London senior title in 2016.
“He’ll incorporate lots from different sports and try and weave it into how we want to set up.”
Moyles’ switch from corner forward to half back evolved out of a conversation between the pair.
“It came about from a discussion as to how you can utilise your experience from other sports I’ve played a lot of football in my time and played that role, so it’s looking at combining those behaviours into this,” he added.
When he reflects on 2009 it’s ‘good memories’ which immediately spring to mind, lining up alongside the likes of Paul Geraghty, Conor Beirne, Chris Donnellan, Marty Hughes and Pauric Duffy.
Moyles has seen firsthand just how far the London set-up has progressed in the intervening years, with a massive shift in mind-set in regards to preparation, conditioning and recovery, and the overall professionalism of the team.
“They were the good old days, or the bad old days, depending on how you want to describe it,” said Moyles, who missed out on London’s run to the Connacht final in 2013 due to a fractured and dislocated ankle.
“Back then you’d trained Tuesday and Thursday, and played on Sunday. There wasn’t any conditioning sessions or emphasis on recovery.
“When you look at the boys now, the way they fill the jersey compared to 2009 it’s chalk and cheese.”
That change in mentality extends to results on the pitch. While the ending against Limerick may have been dramatic, as the Exiles snatched a draw from the face of defeat, you didn’t find too many London players celebrating at the final whistle.
A brace from Moyles had edged the Exiles into a onepoint lead with just six minutes to go, but the home side couldn’t see the game out.
“I thought Limerick was our worst performance out of three, collectively. I was more disappointed than I was happy,” he said.
“We controlled it quite well, especially in the first half, but there were a lot of basic errors which kept Limerick in the game.
“We were set to win it. I think we could have managed it a wee bit better. We were very disappointed in that sense.”
Antrim at McGovern Park on Sunday offers a chance to put that right.