The Ulster management partnership of Mickey Moran and John Morrison is preparing to renew the challenge of bringing success to Leitrim in 2010.
Derry man Moran and Armagh native Morrison have already served Derry, Donegal, Sligo and Mayo in the past, but are now preparing to to embark on a second season in charge of the Connacht county.
The duo have established themselves as one of the most innovative managerial combinations in the country yet their efforts have still to bear fruit in a significant championship context, but Morrison, whose input has been sought in the past by a number of clubs and other units within the Association, believes teams like Antrim, Limerick, Kildare, Waterford and Wicklow have thrown down the gauntlet to Leitrim through their performances in their respective provincial campaigns and All Ireland Qualifiers.
“We are taking on board the fact that both Antrim and Limerick reached their provincial finals, that Kildare came very close to winning the Leinster crown and that Wicklow enjoyed a great surge through the Qualifiers,” said Morrison.
“At the start of 2009, I don’t think any of these sides, with the possible exception of Kildare, would have been regarded as major threats to anyone, but they all stood up to be counted when it mattered most. As a result, they have earned fresh respect and will be treated with caution in 2010.”
Now he wants a Leitrim side which he describes as “seriously committed” to follow the lead given by those teams who injected excitement and intrigue into this year’s championship itinerary.
“When Mickey and myself started with Leitrim, attendances at training were below-par,” revealed Morrison.
“That has changed now. We have maybe upwards on forty players at our sessions, including a lot of very good Under 21 players and they are giving it everything.”
It was in 2006 that the Moran-Morrison partnership took Mayo into the All Ireland final when they were beaten by Kerry. Morrison’s pre-match ‘jostle’ with Dublin boss Paul Caffrey at the semi-final stage lent a further element of spice to that particular encounter in which Mayo’s self-belief was very much in evidence.
This essential ingredient deserted them in the final yet although Mayo underperformed badly that day, Morrison still believes that Connacht football is much better than many believe.
“We have Joe Kernan now in charge of Galway and Kevin Walsh has been doing a good job with Sligo while John O’Mahoney is very keen to bring an All Ireland title to Mayo,” said Morrison.
“ We know it is going to be difficult to lift Leitrim but we play our first game against GMIT in the FDB league on Sunday week and then we meet Galway the following weekend. It will be nice to meet up with Big Joe.”
In the 2010 Connacht Championship, Leitrim have been drawn against the winners of the Roscommon v London tie in the semi-final.
“Victory in that would thrust us into the final — now that would be something,” said Morrison.