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Morrison is backing underdogs to deliver

By Declan Bogue

Mayo are no strangers to All-Ireland finals, but perhaps the strangest of years they have reached the decider, two Ulster men were in charge. In an unlikely twist of fate, the duo of current Slaughtneil manager Mickey Moran and his one-time collaborator John Morrison brought Mayo to the 2006 final.

It ended with a heavy defeat in the final to Kerry, and before winter was out, the two were replaced by the county board.

"John Maughan had just left. The man they wanted was John O'Mahony, who had winning experience of winning All-Irelands with Galway," recalls Morrison.

"He wasn't available and we were. Mayo were surprised we applied.

"Winning or losing doesn't bother me. The year itself, we learned a lot out of it. Because we were never first choice."

However, Morrison is a man who collects and retains friends. When he looks back on the final 11 years ago, he recalls the efforts of several players who are still in action, namely Andy Moran, David Clarke, Keith Higgins, Barry Moran and Alan Dillon.

"I would speak to them regularly. David Clarke reminded me that I used to talk about gameplans and kickouts in training. It wasn't heard of so much back then," recalls the Armagh man.

"But that's the way it was. Some of the principles we used, Mickey still uses with Slaughtneil. And he has blossomed as a coach in recent times."

He recalls them all fondly: "Clarke had confidence, absolute confidence and he still has it.

"And I can't understand why they dropped him last year for the final because it cost them.

"Andy Moran was exceptional. The amount of times he shows for a forward, he can take a score, but he is also a very efficient defender. Some forwards don't place a high enough value on tackling.

"Keith Higgins is often overlooked and he is still there. He is an absolutely brilliant defender, but it all comes from his speed of thought."

And despite the odds to the contrary, he is backing a Mayo win come Sunday.

"Mayo can. They know this deep down. Dublin are not afraid of them, but they are very wary. I would imagine that Jim Gavin has somewhere watertight where nobody could see Dublin training.

"The two midfields of the teams are brilliant, but Mayo are stronger and more impressive. They will not stand back like Tyrone did, they love to attack."

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