John Morrison

On Tuesday last, a message was put into an Armagh WhatsApp group from Kieran Hughes notifying us of the untimely passing of John Morrison early that morning. To say that this was such a sad message to get was an understatement. Just a week previous John had sent me a photo message of his latest coaching column. Included were his wee notes wrote by pen beside it. Indeed, John sent these messages on a weekly basis and not only to me. He circulated to many that crossed his path throughout his illustrious coaching career. He always wanted others to learn and to think differently just as he had done all his life. He was always preaching his gospel and to John there was no better way to do this than to speak of coaching ways and techniques, particularly involving his beloved Gaelic Games. John was years ahead of most, possibly even decades when it came to coaching. Not only was John one of the most skilled and most educated coaches in the country but I would even say that he was indeed as good a sports psychologist as there is out there. He had a fantastic ability to get inside the head of a player and to really make them believe in themselves. Some of his coaching ideas seemed bizarre to most but when you actually break the reasoning behind them down you would say that it was genius like. An example of this would be his one to one sessions with my old Armagh team-mate Paul McGrane when he was coaching him to stay in the air longer to help him field more balls. John looked and analysed Paul’s jump. He looked at his leg and arm movement and timed how long he stayed in the jump for. His jump was too vertical. He needed more of a leap, more elevation coming from his jump and to encourage this, John got Paul jumping to fetch balloons. Some would think this was madness. Not John, nor Paul. A balloon floats in the air therefore the more Paul practised the more of John’s advise was sinking in and coming to fruition. Paul ended up becoming one of the dominant midfielders of his era. John assisted greatly in this. He managed me as an Armagh U21 player. I was making the breakthrough to the senior team but not quite getting into it. At every moment possible during U21 training when he spoke, he mentioned of me getting into the starting team very soon and that it was possible for all in the u21 squad. Only when I look back at it, this was John’s way of discreetly making a player believe in themselves. This worked for me and it made me feel so good about myself and where my game was going. From time to time John would randomly call me, just to find out how I was getting on in the world of coaching and management. He always offered words of wisdom. Advice from a personality as educated as John was invaluable. We’ve all heard plenty of stories about John and the mad lengths he would have always gone to with the teams he was involved in. From Brazil nuts to Valentines cards being sent to each player from SAMantha. Legendary stories indeed. One that was a classic from our U21 days was when he told us to “Go Garlic”. What on earth did this mean. He told us to eat lots of Garlic the evening before games and our markers would not want to be too close to us. Yes, this is a funny story but typical John. He was always looking for a way to improve. He was looking for his players to believe that they had an advantage. He encouraged Yoga when it would have been laughed at. I’m not sure who’s idea it was in 2006 for Mayo to warm up in Dublin’s Hill 16 end before the All-Ireland semi-final but I can almost guarantee that it was indeed John’s idea. The press box in the Athletic Grounds will never be the same again without John being there. His one liners will be missed even though he laughed more at them than anyone else. He was indeed one of life’s gentlemen and a man way ahead of his time when it came to coaching. You will be missed. RIP Beefer. At dheis Dé go raibh a An anam.

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