Patrick Morrison

PATRICK MORRISON: Sweep the sheds

By Patrick Morrison

ON Saturday 15th July 2017, Armagh played in an All-Ireland Qualifier against Tipperary down in Semple Stadium.

In a fantastic game that was end-to-end throughout with tit-for-tat scoring, we, Armagh, finally came from behind to win out by two narrow points. We finished the game stronger and as the game drew to a close, I feel we dealt with the mounting pressure better than our opponents, executing our skills better and scoring vital scores at crucial times.

Jamie Clarke’s cavalier goal near the end proved to be the killer blow although the method he decided to use certainly was not the best for the faint of heart.

As we had been given an evening throw-in, we had a good portion of the day to fill before we began our usual match day preparations before the game. We had travelled down on the Friday and stayed over for the game. The hotel that we stayed in had a gem of a lecture theatre for conferences with excellent video equipment. Hugh Campbell, who was part of the coaching staff, had brought the Richie McCaw DVD, Chasing Great, which had just recently been released.

The video was an absolute masterstroke for a pre-game entertainment. Every player had decided to watch the film and every set of eyes were captivated throughout the whole screening. I remember thinking to myself after the film was over ‘That’s exactly what we needed before the game.’ After watching McCaw’s story, I felt a quiet confidence that we were ready for a Tipperary side who were riding high for the previous few years.

There was a passage in the film that McCaw himself explained which I used in the changing room before the game. It was early in his career when he didn’t have many caps and he came up from a ruck and said he felt overcome with a ‘fear’ that just came out of nowhere. He remembers looking around and thinking to himself ‘Jesus, we can’t lose this game.’ Almost immediately he says a voice inside him said ‘What are you scared of. You planned this, you wanted this. This is exactly where you wanted to be.’ From there the fear left him and they went on to win the game.

Just before our team talk in the bowels of Semple Stadium I could sense the nervousness building in the dressing room. Knowing the impact that the McCaw film had on myself personally, I drew upon it as a reference point to try and reduce the nervous energy within the changing rooms.

I motioned to the middle of the dressing room and said loudly “Do not be afraid. We planned to be here; we want to be here. This is exactly where we want to be.” Whether it had an impact who knows? But I felt it had to said so I said it.

For that squad of players, one of our biggest influences was the All-Blacks rugby union team. Whenever I joined the panel in 2014, Geezer was a massive advocate of rebuilding a strong, positive team culture within the county.

Over the years we would create our own culture and principles during team/player meetings which allowed us to keep our standards high both on and off the field of play. To ensure that standards were maintained we had a team sheriff, a person to oversee everything and to hand out punishments when someone lowered their standards.

The team sheriff role is tonehe role I took on from 2016 up until 2018 when I left the panel. Part of my role was to draw up a schedule for ‘Sweeping the Sheds.’ This resulted in a five-week rotation for every player to have a night whenever they cleaned the dressing rooms after training and/or games.

After the Tipperary game in Semple Stadium, Dave Fitzsimons. head of events at the ground, ventured into our dressing room to clean up after us. To his surprise he found the dressing room spotless, and all the rubbish placed into the big black bin in the middle of the floor. Two days after the game, Armagh stalwart Paddy McKeever tweeted a picture of the bin sitting in the middle of the dressing room that we had cleaned with the title ‘Respect, cleaning the shed #semple.’

Dave Fitzsimons retweeted McKeever’s post and said: “This is a simple post but is important to me and my team. A small bit of respect for your surrounding goes a long way. We’ve had teams from all corners use our facilities at the National Sports Campus and we greatly appreciate a bit of courtesy. Fair play to Paddy McKeever, Kieran McGeeney & Armagh Senior Football team at Semple Stadium this weekend.”

Usually there would have been two or three men selected to clean but that night we cleaned the dressing room as a team.

We didn’t clean up the dressing rooms looking for notoriety. We didn’t clean the dressing rooms looking to improve our image. We cleaned the dressing rooms out of respect for our hosts and the warm hospitality that they afforded us for the game. We cleaned the dressing room that night to remind ourselves to never be too big to do the small things that needed to be done. We cleaned the dressing rooms that night to keep our standards high and our heads grounded.

Gaelic football is of course a team sport, and everyone needs to contribute both on and off the field. Every player on our team that year fully understood the importance of cleaning the dressing rooms after training and matches.

Even the well-known players knew this importance and had no issues completing their ‘Sheds’ duties on their designated nights. The discipline required to clean the dressing rooms is the same discipline used to make that last ditch tackle, make that last ditch run, track the runner, make the block etc.

There is no better way to stay grounded and stay humble than to ‘Sweep The Sheds.’

Email:; Facebook: @MSoG11; Twitter: @MorSchGk

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


Gaelic Life is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW