FOOTBALL: New start – The Big Interview with new Leitrim manager Jonny Garrity
By DARAGH SMALL (Fermanagh manager Jonny Garrity during the 2019 TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Junior Championship Semi-Final match between Fermanagh and London at St Tiernach’s Park in Clones, Monaghan. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile)
He doesn’t tire of questions about Manchester City and his time spent in the £200 million Etihad campus but Jonny Garrity is quick to point out that he wasn’t working directly with the first team.
It was still a significant achievement for a young Tyrone man, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Patrick Viera and his fellow Cityzens in one of the greatest football clubs in the world.
Garrity spent seven months learning from the coaching elite too and now he finds himself back in Fermanagh as a Games Development Officer and managing Leitrim heading into the 2023 season.
He has a serious pedigree, and while he took some time away from the adult grade to focus on matters closer to home – the Tyrone Ladies minor team – he is looking to breathe new life into Leitrim. And it starts with the culture he learned five years ago in Manchester.
“Culture would be central to what I do in management, having touched on it extensively during my undergraduate and Master’s degree,” said Garrity.
“It was really telling in my progression to see it in action in Manchester City. And you really could see it walking down the corridor, if a youth player was walking past you, they would have the hand up for a high five.
“It was simple because you had the uniform of coaching staff there. They mightn’t have had you before but they respected you because you were there and that was fantastic.
“Depending on which training, or matches were on at any given time, you would go the canteen and there would be different teams in eating and they would mingle. Seeing the likes of Steph Houghton for the women’s team, the way she behaved as a leader with her group was fantastic as well. Making sure everybody was okay, talking to everybody.
“It was a really positive culture and a nice place to be. It was a learning environment and one that is respected at the core. That is what I’ve tried to replicate anywhere I have been.
“I think it makes a massive difference. You are talking about value of every individual in the organisation. And that value should be placed on everybody no matter what level they are at or role they are fulfilling. It’s an understanding that everybody has a part to play and regardless of how big or small the part is.
“In Leitrim now, it’s a matter of trying to ensure that you are getting the right people in the room, that’s the first thing. Yes, we are trying to select the best footballers in the county. But we are also going to be very mindful of their mental attributes and what they bring to the environment.”
The Fintona native first studied exercise and sport science at Manchester Metropolitan University and after realising primary teaching was not for him, he did a Master’s degree that would ultimately pave the way for an unlikely stint in the Etihad.
“It was something from left-field,” Garrity was recommended for a job as a performance analyst with the Manchester City Academy by his Masters lead Dr Ryan Groom, who had links with Man City.
“When he recommended me to go into Manchester City you take their hand off for that.
“It was a really successful time, you could feel a buzz around the place, there is no question about that. There are very high standards around the academy I was involved with. And you could sense that it was an exciting place to be at that time.”
Garrity never worked directly with Pep Guardiola and the first-team squad – there was a separate entrance for the Ladies and Academy squad and coaching teams.
But he still got to experience the breakthrough of talents like Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho.
“You obviously keep an eye on the players that you may have seen first-hand,” said Garrity.
“But at the same time my passion is in Gaelic football and I would be more inclined to watch a Celtic match if I was watching soccer. Outside of that I wouldn’t be a big soccer supporter.
“Of course, I would keep an eye on, not just the players that were there when I was there but the staff as well. If you see them moving to other clubs and working with different managers, you would be happy for them as well.
“And I would have probably been involved with a range of different age groups. Probably most of the time I was down with U-13 and U-15. There were only a few occasions where I was helping U-23 and U-21. But at all the different age groups you would come across that kind of player that would have that bit of star quality. They would stand out.
“But everyone develops at their own rate and you should never discount anyone at the same time.”
Now 40, Garrity and his wife Kayleigh are expecting their first child this December as he plots out a new life and a new challenge after a very successful stint with Fermanagh.Working with the Tyrone underage setup gave Garrity another opportunity to grow his CV and skillset. However, he is ready to step back into the big time.
“It’s hugely different with the minors,” said Garrity.
“It took quite a bit of getting used to. The main differences that we found was the access to the players was greatly inhibited. With the senior team you are able to meet girls for a coffee, you are able to pull them into a team meeting with short notice.
“But with the minor girls you have to be conscious that in some cases they are not driving. You won’t be able to be in a WhatsApp group with them, it will be their parents through a liaison officer.
“A wee bit more difficult to get the culture exactly how you want it. It is a bit more removed, several steps removed than the senior role is.”
Culture keeps popping up, and he feels that once he gets that right in Leitrim the opportunities are endless in a county crying out for success in the Lidl NFL and TG4 All-Ireland Championship.
“We just can’t wait to get started. We are at that position now where we are doing our due diligence and looking at players and seeing who would fit from a football sense and from a mentality sense into the group,” said Garrity.
“It’s a really exciting part of the process. But we’re very much looking forward to getting the team named and getting the girls into the room.”