Sport Gaelic Football

Saturday 24 March 2018

Leitrim to let actions do talking for Philly

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

Emotions will be running deep, but Mickey Moran has said that Leitrim's footballers will hope to put their sadness at the loss of team-mate Philip McGuinness aside, when they finally step into championship action this weekend.

As a sign of respect the Leitrim footballers have retired the number 10 jersey of their late team-mate but they also believe they can honour Philip through victory this Sunday.

"It would have been very easy for us to turn this summer into some sort of a crusade in Philly's memory," said the Leitrim co-manager about the county's all-action half-forward, who tragically died after an accident in a club game last April.

"But the players themselves decided that the best thing we could do to honour him was to put everything aside and give all our concentration to playing football," he revealed.

"Philly was such a lovely person, he was modest and down-to-earth and there was no nonsense about him, he just went all out to play football.

"We can't deny he will be in our thoughts, he always will be," Moran admitted.

"But after his death we decided to get back to work as soon as possible and apply ourselves as hard as we could to football because that was what Philly always did. Everyone felt it would have been wrong to use his loss as a motivation because, the way he was, he needed no other motivation than the game itself and he gave absolutely everything to it," he added.

A man who has experienced the highs and lows in Gaelic football, Moran said that McGuinness' death was the hardest thing he has had to deal with in his long history as an inter-county manager.

He revealed that Tyrone boss Mickey Harte was particularly helpful to himself and co-manager John Morrison in helping them to manage their traumatised and grieving players.


Harte is all too experienced in managing grief-stricken players having been manager of Tyrone's minors and seniors when they lost Paul McGirr and Cormac McAnallen respectively.

A dedicated page on the Leitrim website pays tribute to McGuinness, whose death brought massive support from the GAA community all around the globe.

But on Sunday his team-mates want to pay their own tribute by putting their emotions aside and focus on beating Roscommon in the Connacht SFC semi-final in Dr Hyde Park.

McGuinness' loss heaped tragedy on a county already decimated by both injuries and emigration this year.

And the side who beat only Longford, Carlow, London and Kilkenny in Division 4, are also not helped by being the last team in the country into championship action.

They have lost their topscorer Emlyn Mulligan and Colin Regan to cruciate injuries and McGuinness's brother Michael is also out with a knee injury.

Emerging defender Pat Gilmartin emigrated to New Zealand and they also lost their former captain Gary McCloskey, wing-back Barry McWeeney and Adrian O'Flynn, who have moved to work abroad. Declan Maxwell -- their best target-man up front -- is still coming back after surgery and Leitrim will be without six players who started last year's corresponding clash with Roscommon.

They lost that match by four points (2-13 to 2-9), in a contest where an early injury to James Glancy (Glencar-Manorhamilton) proved particularly costly.

Leitrim's last Connacht Final appearance was a decade ago and came when they shocked Roscommon in the Hyde. But Fergal O'Donnell's side already have a championship game under their belts -- even if they were less than convincing in beating London.

"Losing players to emigration is very cyclical in Leitrim because of the lack of industry locally, but we have brought in a lot of U-21 players who have worked very hard," said Moran.

"The fact is that if you put the whole population of Leitrim in Croke Park, they would just fill the Hogan Stand and yet our players are extremely committed and enthusiastic.

"It is inspiring to work with them," added Moran.

Irish Independent

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