I suppose you could call this profile “From IRA Gunmen to the Deep South, from riots in
Athens all the way back to calm of the TT Racers” (most of the time).
I’ve always loved running, looking up to my big brother (Ken Morris) who raced for West
Dublin AC. I loved doing everything he did and I also wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps
after looking at him over the years racing. My dad had been one of the original runners of
the BHAA and had completed the first 17-18 Dublin City Marathons.
One of my first running memories was when I was in the middle of the Dublin/Wicklow
mountains. My dad had leased a patch of ground where himself and my uncles would cut
turf for most of the day. As night fell, he’d tell us to run in front of his car on the dirt roads.
He’d use us as a markers in his headlights (as there was little room to spare on either side of
the road), we were literally 3 miles from the nearest main road in the middle of the Feather
Beds. I was only 9 or 10yrs old at the time. One evening as the sun was setting behind the
hills and I was ticking along at a nice pace in front of the car, a flare lit up the night sky (what
the hell) – through the darkness coming out of the bushes and ditches 10-12 heavily armed
gunmen carrying arms stepped forward (what in Gods name) !!
With a shout from behind, “keep feckin going and don’t stop”, I passed the lads, to my
surprise, I was encouraged – one of the lads said to me “Nice running” and other said “Good
form”. Jesus, I was being complemented by gunmen! From this moment, my journey into
the athletics world began and that shout “Just keep going/don’t stop” was my driving force
for the next 20 years.
I played football for Manortown FC in Walkinstown for years and was pretty alright (if I do
say so myself). I had scouts watch me but to no avail (Forest & Leeds), but nothing ever
At 16yrs it was time to choose – soccer or running. Running won hands down as at this stage
as I’d started to be noticed. I had picked up medals now in every year nationally, top 10
cross country each year, top 3 on the track between 1500mtrs and 3000mtrs, never been
beaten over cross country in Dublin (in my age group – until I hit 18yrs). The decision was
easy – soccer was gone. I won national medals in every age group from 12yrs-18yrs and also
in Junior and U23 but missed out on a Senior one.
My auld man was training me from when I was 10-11yrs old, a man of little words but one of
fine words when spoken. We travelled the length and breadth of the country year in, year
out. As my dad never liked mad mod-cons or gadgets, he studied books on Arthur Lydiard
and Peter Coe religiously (coaches of some of the greatest half milers and milers of all time).
My dad’s structure was hard miles, tough speed sessions, 4/5 mile track time-trails – that’s
what got you medals! Never give up – work hard. Don’t look back, don’t worry about things
that haven’t happened yet. I still think that most athletes today worry too much about their
Garmin’s and heart rates, instead of putting their head down and slogging it out. I worked
dam hard in them early years but it payed off when I represented Dublin at the age of 12yrs
up to senior level and Leinster on several occasions, even picking up a senior medal for the
AAA 1500mtrs in the Northern Ireland Championships – wow, if the gunmen could see me
I thought an Irish vest would follow but never my luck. I got called up alright but never wore
the vest. Canadas’ U23’s were on tour (Canada v’s Ireland v’s Leinster v’s Ulster). I went to
pick up my vest but was handed a Leinster one instead. I was reminded by the Leinster
manager at the time that they’d looked after me for the last couple of meets and sure I was
confident that more Irish vests would follow (none ever did). I stayed loyal to the Leinster
team that night and ran my 800m with a PB, finishing 4 th in 1.52.99
America called shortly afterwards and I set off for the deep south of the United States and
to start university in Louisiana – McNeese State. McNeese had a great relationship with Irish
lads and ladies, making up many cross-country teams and distant stars of the past and
present. The great Fanagan McSweeney right up to today’s Stephen Scullion.
Five monster years, racing all over the place, from Texas to New York, PB’s a plenty but just
never reaching where I wanted to be. Homesickness crippled me over there. There was no
Facebook or Twitter back then, one phone call a week – if you were lucky. I had a love hate
relationship with my head coach at the time. I’ll never forget, after my first cross country
race, I stepped over the white line of the course and while finishing 2 nd overall and being
chuffed with myself, I got a whisper in my ear at the finish “Step outside of the line of the
course again and I’ll send you on the next F**king plane home”.
But times were good there: a 5K PB of 15.20 in Alabama, a 10K 32.30 in Waco Texas (C/C), a
3K 8.38 in San Antonio, a 1500mtr PB of 3.51 in New Orleans and two conference titles but
missing out narrowly on a team NCAA qualifying berth. Finishing up in America was strange,
maybe something that could be addressed more I suppose, but once you ran your last race –
you were out the door.
No more paid travel, no more gear, no more massages, no more dietitians – here’s your
degree, you’re on your own now. A serious shock to the system for me and many more like
me that were never going to make any major championships but struggled now to fit in
anywhere with no support or backup. I guess you get spoiled over the 4-5yrs but as my dad
would say “Suck it up and get on with it”.
I watched some old teammates make the breakthrough, making European and World
Championships and winning Commonwealth games medals – WOW – what a life.
Back home now (sort of), I found myself in London for the next two years. Teaching, but still
missing home. Raced a bit for Watford AC but struggled to be honest. I don’t think I finished
a race for them in 4 attempts. Home called and when I returned, I started to work for
Dublin City Council in their Sports section. An old McNeese teammate (Coilin O’Reilly) from
Liffey Valley AC had set me up. DCC had a great athletic tradition and with them I started to
compete at all the BHAA events.
Only for the BHAA, I don’t think I’d be running today. As well as the BHAA races, DCC travel
abroad every year to compete in European and World corporate games and other events. I
remember running in Athens a few years back. We had just finished the cross-country event
and still had the 4×1-mile relay in a nearby stadium. Teams from Britain, Spain and France
were competing. We thought we were flying during the races, only to discover that the track
was 360mtrs and not 400mtrs long. Anyway, the track timetable over ran due to a severe
thunderstorm and a Division 3 Greek football match that was due to kick off in the infield
got delayed. The home team wasn’t happy when the ref threatened to give the away team
the points! It was just my luck, I was on the last leg, of the last relay of the day. The home
team took great acceptation to the refs’ news and with 200mtrs to go of my leg, I was spat
at and kicked by supports who had ran onto the track. As I looked down towards the
finishing line, there was a full-blown riot taking place between athletes, soccer players,
officials and fans alike. The police even wanted us gone and helped with a few kicks along
the way. Looking back, I think it was a very lucky escape.
Back home at one of the BHAA races, I hooked up with a few old running mates, Paul
Fleming and Ronan Kearns (who I had trained and raced with since we were nippers). I
signed up with Rathfarnham AC and started to train with Terry in Irishtown each week. I
remember hooking up with Terry one day (and I stand corrected), but we used to train in
the park next to the track at lunch time with a few bodies. The park was getting busier and
busier with every session. After a visit to Sean Moore Park with Terry and a quick measure
of the loop around the GAA pitches (and a lot of hard work by Terry), I guess TT Racers were
Since hooking up with TT Racers back then, the speed has gone from my legs, so I’ve moved
up in distance, running marathons and ½ marathons that I never thought I’d run. I know
Terry said to me that he wouldn’t speak to me again if I attempted to run another marathon
after dropping out of my last one in Rotterdam, but my long-term goal is to break the 2.50
mark in the coming years. Unfortunately, it slipped out of my grasp back in Dublin 2014 with
a time of 2.53. As I sit here, my wife says I’m ridiculous…. but it would be wrong not to give
it a go having such a good training group around me.
- It’s been a quick 12-13yrs with TT Racers, so much has happened. It’s been an amazing
journey and I certainly don’t think I’d be still running if it wasn’t for the comradery and
support of the group (especially Terry). I’m not around as much at the sessions lately and I
was reminded of this a short time ago when one of the lads in the group, turned to me and
said “Buddy, if you lost a few KG, I think you could make a good runner” THANKS!!
Note to one’s self – I need to lose a few KG’s and come back down and train with the group