Maurice Price, who died last week aged 83, was a key figure in Irish football for more years 30 years domestically and internationally. As a talented coach, he held top jobs at leading clubs such as Bohemians, St Patrick’s Athletic and Dundalk, and was part of the coaching team that accompanied Jack Charlton to Italia ’90 and Mick McCarthy to Saipan in 2002.
“He lived his dream” is how his daughter Kim described it, but, more than that, he helped many young players to achieve their dreams as their mentor from his early days with his local team, Lourdes Celtic, to international days as manager of the Irish youths at the European Championships in 1996 and assistant to Brian Kerr at the World Youth Cup in Malaysia in 1997.
Morrie, as he was known, had seen his own dreams as a player dashed when a move from Shamrock Rovers to Coventry City failed to bear fruit, and he was reduced to playing non-League football. His time in England wasn’t wasted, as he discovered the two great loves of his life: his wife Irene, who he met while working in the Standard Triumph motor factory, and coaching, for which he developed an intense interest in learning more.
Behind every good man there’s a good woman, and Irene fully supported Morrie in his search for coaching perfection. On one occasion when a contact sent him a German coaching manual Irene went to the trouble of translating it word for word from a dictionary. No greater love…
Born in Crumlin, Dublin, Morrie attended Crumlin CBS and played Gaelic football and hurling with the school, winning the coveted Herald Cup for schools hurling with them. However, soccer was his first love and he was capped at schoolboy level against England, when he had the task of marking Bobby Charlton.
A very gifted sportsman, Maurice tried his hand at many different sports, even a bit of boxing when he was in the British Army doing his National Service in Cyprus.
When he returned home he worked at first in Semperit, and started coaching his local club, Lourdes Celtic, and they sent him to England to do his coaching badges under Allen Wade. He added Uefa badges later and a diploma from Maynooth in his thirst for knowledge about the art of coaching.
He served an excellent apprenticeship with Lourdes Celtic before Kerr brought him to St Pat’s and introduced him to the senior game while giving him a taste of the international side of things with the Irish Youths. Moves to Kilkenny and Bohemians led to success in the FAI Cup in 1992.
By then, he had become part of Jack Charlton’s coaching staff and he had sampled the historic breakthrough to the Italia ’90 World Cup finals. In a camp led by serious heavyweights such as Charlton and Maurice Setters, Morrie had a smile and a friendly word for all-comers. “He never thought he was anyone special,” Kim said. “He was only home from an international and he was off around to the local team to see if they wanted any help. That’s the kind of man he was.”
For many managers and coaches, the referee becomes their bête noire, a handy target to cover up their own inadequacies, but this didn’t apply to Morrie. As Paddy Daly recalled: “Morrie was a thorough gentleman. He never said a bad word about referees and was always very appreciative of any advice you gave him. He was also the first to shake your hand after a game.
“I couldn’t say a bad word about the man. I never had an argument with him even when I made mistakes in the games.
“He was a trainer and a coach, but most of all an adviser to young players — a mentor. He would sit down with them after a game.”
Former referee and later kitman with Ireland’s international team, Charlie O’Leary, was another to be impressed by Morrie. “He was very good with young players and liked by them. A fatherly figure, he always encouraged them. He tried to coach them by coaxing them rather than coming the heavy on them. He knew the game,” O’Leary said.
Maurice, who was predeceased by wife Irene eight years ago, is survived by his children Kim, Charlie, Maurice and Diane, his sister Roonagh and brothers Frank, Brian and Paul.
Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.