Martin Kiely: Monaleen's Leo Morrison - A tribute

Martin Kiely


Martin Kiely


Martin Kiely : Monaleen's Leo Morrison - A tribute

Monaleen's GAA stalwart Leo Morrison RIP

IN our lifetime we may sometimes be afforded the opportunity to meet some special people on our journey.

People that stand out from the crowd and people that hold values that remind us of what life should be about.

Two weeks ago Monaleen and Limerick GAA lost a special man that left an indelible mark on those lucky enough to have known him.

Leo Morrison stood out from the crowd, he was a man of great values and faith. He was one of the finest GAA people I knew. I was greatly shocked when news broke of his sudden passing. Only a couple of weeks previously he had celebrated his 80th birthday. He did so in the company of his many friends and the majority of them were steeped in the GAA.

I first got to know Leo through County Board meetings and it didn’t take long to know that he was different. He wasn’t the type to go in, sit down like a contented sheep and say nothing.

When he spoke people took notice. He was so often the voice of reason and when it came to giving the County Board, Munster Council or Croke Park a lash he was not slow.

At the back of it all was his love, passion and honesty for the GAA. He spoke from the heart, he had the ability to touch all of the right points and that is a rare practice at County Board meetings.

His love of the GAA would have been fostered by his father James. He was treasurer of Ballysimon Faughs. I can remember him telling me of the stories related to him by his father and how difficult it was to raise funds to keep the club alive. Those stories would prove to be guiding principles for Leo and such values and respect were carried through his entire life.

He joined Monaleen GAA club shortly after it was founded in 1957. From that year to the time of his death his club held a very special place in his heart.

When those great men founded the GAA in 1884, in Thurles, they held a vision of what it could do for Ireland and particularly rural Ireland. They didn’t know it then but a few decades later that vision was lightly carried by Leo Morrison.

He, like thousands of others, saw the value of the games and what it could do for rural society. He was a player, a coach, officer, fund raiser, lotto co-ordinator, sponsor and County Board delegate.

Quite simply he did all of the above and so much more that we will never know about. When his club had difficult days it was Leo that took care of things and the vast majority of people knew nothing about it.

He was the rock, the last man standing and in all cases he was the man that made things right. He never looked for thanks and didn’t seek the limelight. Instead he was happiest watching his club play regardless of the age.

From camogie, to young girls playing football and of course the joy of underage and adult hurling and football he followed them all. It didn’t matter where Leo was present.

When his club were playing Leo Morrison would be transferred into a different planet. The love of the red and white meant so much to him. He was passionate, wore the love of his club on his sleeve. Along with some other great men the foundation was put in place for Monaleen.

Nowadays this club enjoys great success at various levels but it would not have been possible without the hard work, dedication and vision of people like Leo Morrison. Men like Christy Murphy and Noel Moynihan were founding fathers they became known as the “3Ms” Murphy, Moynihan and Morrison.

GAA and business people from across Limerick and beyond travelled to pay their respects to a man they greatly admired.

Former players, club and county officers stood in line for hours to bid goodbye to a man that had won their respect.

A feature I greatly admire in people is the ability to speak their minds. Leo Morrison had this. He was not a “yes” man. He had a viewpoint and was never afraid to offer it. Sadly this is rare at County Board meetings because too many are happy to sit back in silence.

Tom Crosse was a close friend of Leo’s for many years, they stood shoulder to shoulder for the good of the club and together they walked the roads around Monaleen parish to raise funds for the club.

Tom said, “I had the pleasure of working with him for a very long time, when I came into the club it was Leo that had the hand out. He had a very special way with people and when it came to club duty he was the man that got the best out of people. Around this time of year we would be making plans for our lotto and we had about one hundred houses to cover together. It was a job I enjoyed doing with him. It sometimes took longer than I had wished because everyone wanted Leo in for tea. In an era of computers we didn’t require one because from a data and fact point of view Leo Morrison had no equal. We have lost a great mentor and friend. Monaleen GAA meant so much to him and he gave so much to it.”

Leo went to daily mass at 10am. It would require something special for him to miss it. That something special would happen each September on All Ireland hurling final day. This was set in stone, a day he looked forward to, a day to meet old friends and to take in the beauty of this great game. It was special this year when his son Leo, grandson Leo Og joined Leo senior in Croke Park. Those days would have meant a great deal to him.

It takes a special person to touch all the cords in a club or community and Leo Morrison was one such person.

From the old to the young they all looked up to him. When the news broke of his death Ed Doyle said the following on twitter, “I’ll never forget the speech Leo Morrison gave when we won the football feile in Derry in 2010 he had young lads in tears a great man RIP.”

Leo had a way with people and they respected his honesty. They were never left in doubt.

It made him really happy to see his club Monaleen progress, he saw them win football and hurling titles and at our last meeting he was setting the bar even higher for them.

Limerick doing well gave him hope, hope that he might yet see them win another senior title. Sadly that didn’t happen.

Leo had become disillusioned with many aspects of how business was done in particular how the County Board was doing its business.

Leo told me, “If you give someone your word then you should hold it.”

Limerick GAA has lost some great people over the past few years. People that put their lives on hold for the GAA. They did so because it meant so much to them. Leo Morrison was one of them. His love of Gaelic games was the tapestry of his life, each game provided pictures and Leo added the words. To his family, club, and friends I offer my sincere sympathy.