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Down legend Lennon helped change game for the better

By Declan Bogue

Published 30/11/2016

Joe Lennon with President Mary McAleese
Joe Lennon with President Mary McAleese

The heftiest news always arrives with a sudden jolt and a trigger of memories, and so it was with the passing of legendary Down footballer Joe Lennon.

"He was a pioneering figure in the area of coaching, setting new standards in the area of thought and training around our games," was just part of the tribute paid by President Aogan ÓFearghail.

Lennon was the first GAA figure since Dick Fitzgerald to produce a booklet outlining how to coach Gaelic football.

Fitzgerald launched 'How to play Gaelic football' in 1914 but it wasn't until Lennon released 'Coaching Football for champions' almost half a century later that another attempt was made at the genre.

Lennon was one of only four Down players to straddle the breakthrough All Ireland win of 1960, the successful defence in 1961, and '68. He ran what was the first Gaelic games coaching conference in Gormanstown in 1964.

The subsequent week-long course was attended by representatives of all bar one county.

Mick O'Dwyer was said to have gone along out of curiosity, though he stopped short of taking notes.

His subsequent Doctorate came from writing a thesis on the rules, 'Towards a Philosophy for Legislation in Gaelic Games'.

Current Fermanagh manager Pete McGrath admits to dipping into his coaching books, along with another called 'Fitness for Gaelic football'.

Like most progressives in the GAA, he was treated with suspicion and made an outsider.

But be in no doubt, he changed the game.

Belfast Telegraph

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