GAA Football

Harps 'keeper Paddy Morrison hoping to complete recovery from op with Armagh SFC success

Armagh Harps goalkeeper Paddy Morrison (right) has recovered from a bowel operation to be ready for the Armagh SFC semi-final clash with Ballymacnab.
Photograph by Declan Roughan
Sean O'Neill

PADDY Morrison was told he wouldn't play again this year due to an operation on his obstructed bowel. Indeed, had it burst, he had only a 20 per cent chance of survival.

Even after the successful surgery in January, he was barely fit to walk past his neighbour's house – yet tomorrow night he will line out for Armagh Harps in their county SFC semi-final against Ballymacnab.

Inspired by tennis player Pat Cash, he has fully recovered from the operation he underwent to rectify a small bowel obstruction, which required emergency surgery because his bowel had swollen so much.

He revealed that he was told that, had his bowel burst, he would have had about a 20 per cent chance of survival.

Post-surgery he was advised that his recovery would rule him out for the year.

However, the determined net-minder made it back much sooner than expected.

"I was recovered in four months," he said. "I had done research about athletes.

"No offence to the doctors but they go by their textbooks. They don't take everybody by an individual case.

"It wouldn't matter whether I was a 70-year-old smoker or an Olympic athlete – they would still give you the same prognosis.

"I found that Pat Cash had actually taken part in the US Open and won it four weeks after a small bowel obstruction."

Armed with this encouragement, Morrison concluded that "it can be done with the right team."

"It's all credit to the medical team, the doctors and the physios we had in Armagh," he said.

"Every single day, sometimes twice a day I was either doing recovery or strengthening exercises and stuff, or even just stuff on the bike just to get me going.

"The first time I went for a walk, I walked from my front door – out my gate and I got barely past the neighbour's house before I had to sit on the wall because I was that out of breath with the anaesthetics and the weakness."

On the football itself, Morrison believes that both his own club and Ballymacnab have strong motivation.

The 'Nab pipped Harps by a point in the first round of last year's championship and Morrison is sure that, although their opponents will be confident of repeating the feat, Harps won't want to be caught twice.

"Ballymacnab won't be easily beat," insisted Morrison. "They're a well-organised team, always have been, and can play good football. [They have] Rory Grugan and Jack Grugan and Gavin McParland.

"They [also] have Brian McComb, a very, very intelligent footballer. He would have played soccer for Armagh City - he's a very good play-maker. They have a couple of Beggans, and then you have the Kennedys, who will have a very big showing on it as well. They are very good footballers, very talented.

"They love playing against the Harps, so there is a rivalry there. They will have no fear of us and we'll have no fear of them and that's what sets it up for a great semi-final."

Armagh Harps have established themselves as the current number one club in the cathedral city, and Morrison says there is a conviction that they can also become the top side in the county.

"We have believed this last couple of years that we could be the top club in Armagh," declared Morrison.

"Bar a couple of below-par performances in county finals and that. I mean, we've always been beaten by the eventual winners and that's been mostly Crossmaglen."

To get to this stage, Harps overcame Annaghmore in the first round before they met Cullyhanna three times, once in the second round before a drawn and replayed quarter-final.

The latter was a particularly bruising affair with three red cards dished out. That series of clashes have brought the Harps to a feverish championship pitch.

"All games stand to you, it's what you take out of them yourself," said Morrison.

Referring to the win against Cullyhanna, Morrison said "you would call it good old championship bite."

"It was two teams that really wanted it, and there was nothing lost in the physicality of it, especially from the drawn game," he said.

"The two teams just believed that they were better than the other."

Impressive in that game for Harps were players such as Ultan Lennon, Simon McCoy, Joe McElroy, and Lorcan Oliver. For this game they will also be able to welcome back Gareth Swift and Conor White.

Oliver is a new addition to the team, and has impressed Morrison. "He's a very good footballer," said Morrison. "He's still a wee bit raw. He's played hurling as well, he's a big hurler and I think he was a rower for Queens too. He's a very talented sportsman.

"He's a big, big lad, he's about 6' 6'', 6' 7''. He had a good showing the other night. He's very strong and has good vision and good feet."

Morrison himself was also instrumental in the last game, with some important clearances. Just playing should be a bonus, but – like Cash- he wants a trophy as reward for his recovery efforts.

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