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Slaughtneil boss Mickey Moran knows the secret of success

By Declan Bogue

After all the fury and unrestrained joy that accompanied the final whistle of the Derry final, something slipped the attention of most.

While Slaughtneil players joyously hailed only their second Derry title, their manager had already slipped off, gathering their footballs into a net, being as unobtrusive as possible.

That's Mickey Moran. Eamonn Coleman's coach from the 1993 All-Ireland win, and still working with players.

For Moran, it was always about the coaching. Even as a Derry player, he wanted to be coach, and so took on the role at the age of 29. He brought Omagh St Enda's to their last Championship in 1988 before this generation bridged that gap.

He had two more spins with Derry. Got to a Connacht final with Sligo. An All-Ireland semi-final with Donegal. A final with Mayo. And paid his dues in the utterly unfashionable role of Leitrim manager.

Now he is back winning titles with Slaughtneil. They now face Cavan Gaels in this weekend's Ulster club quarter-final (Sunday, Owenbeg, throw-in 2.30pm). Heady times for everyone.

Two weeks ago, the club hurling manager Mickey Glover described his job in sharing players with Moran as they chased glory on two fronts.

"Mickey is a very, very experienced man, a very good man as well," he said.

"Anybody that you speak to about Mickey Moran says the same thing; gentleman," is the verdict of his long-time coaching collaborator, John Morrison.

Slaughtneil's Chairman Sean McGuigan says: "The first thing that comes to mind for Mickey Moran is that he is a total gentleman."

Yet he's winning Championships. Don't you have to be, well, a bit nasty to win stuff nowadays? Is that not the popular belief?

"He doesn't come into that bracket," answers McGuigan.

"I don't know what that phrase means any more, but it certainly does not apply to him.

"He is a players' manager. He looks into their welfare and the players who are injured, he insists on getting them the best of attention. Whereas some might say, 'Nah, you're ok, play away,' he's tuned into it."

McGuigan was a long-standing referee in Derry. "And I refereed loads of clubs in Derry where he was manager and you never heard the man's word. He's just an unbelievable man and he never, ever raises his voice."

In recent times, Moran has become painfully media-shy. A triple by-pass, the need of which showed up on a routine check-up in late 2011, caused him to step down from Leitrim. Ever since then he has maintained a low profile.

The curious thing was that, soon after, Morrison himself was hospitalised with a condition where he had too much iron in his blood. Even in illness, they did things together.

But before that, he and Morrison spent years learning the highways and byways of Ireland. Three hours to the depths of Connacht and the same time back, three times a week for years, leaves you with a keen understanding of each other.

Morrison makes a clear distinction of Moran: "His general manner masks the fact that he is very decisive.

"I don't mean ruthless - ruthless and decisive suggests the same thing, only one suggests a boy who acts tough. Decisive is a boy who makes a decision.

"We had a great relationship along the line. Mickey encouraged me to berate his ear. There was never any rancour. I was willing to be number two, but I would never compromise Mickey.

"Mickey was never pompous with me. He was never over-bearing. That tells you a lot."

Although the job was hindered by all sorts of factors, they got so much out of their spell in Leitrim.

After meeting each other at the popular hitching post of Paudge Quinn's, they would make a pit stop in Frankie's Eatwell café in Derrylin, just before the border.

Morrison would start talking, Moran would add his sharp observations. Before long, local men would synchronise their visits to the café to talk football with M & M.

"The two girls were really friendly in it. Then they got to realise who we were," recalls Morrison.

"We used to go down and the feeds they used to set up! You didn't know whether to eat it or climb it!"

The odd time when either man is down that way for a coaching course or a school engagement they call in for a chat. Their picture still hangs on the wall, as if it were Tom Cruise.

Tragedy struck in Leitrim too, with the untimely passing in 2010 of Philly McGuinness, who died when playing a club league match for Mohill against Melvin Gaels.

"Mickey called me and straight away we were off for the hospital," he recalls.

"We went down and stayed the week in Leitrim, went to the funeral, stayed there. Met the President. But just to be there, with the team. That's the kind of him."

That summer, Morrison and Moran stood on the sidelines in Championship football, wearing Leitrim jerseys, with McGuinness's number 10 on their backs.

The entire set-up wore green and gold armbands. On the outside, they read 'PB - Personal Best.' Inside was 'Philly Brother - Personal Best.'

"He was a great lad, and Mickey recognised it, what he gave to them, he continued to give even in his death."

And now Moran is back. In a harsh environment of Ulster club football, but not compromising his integrity. Not being the kind of manager who puts pressure on referees. Being an example to others on how you don't automatically have to behave like a cornerboy on a sideline. Most refreshing.

You think you have a sense of Moran before you notice a voicemail on your phone. It's left by Morrison.

"Declan, if you could use this line, if you wanted. One of the things I always say about Mickey is, Mickey Moran to me was like the brother I never had."

And with his voice cracking he repeats it: "The brother I never had."

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