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'I would be very ambitious' - From Man City role to All-Ireland glory with Fermanagh

Jonny Garrity’s journey has been an interesting one so far.

Fermanagh manager Jonny Garrity celebrates with his team after their 2020 All-Ireland junior win.
Fermanagh manager Jonny Garrity celebrates with his team after their 2020 All-Ireland junior win.
Image: ©INPHO

FROM MANCHESTER CITY to Fermanagh Ladies, it’s fair to say Jonny Garrity’s road to becoming an inter-county boss has been a unique one. 

The Tyrone man was 19 when he left these shores and two decades on, he is preparing for his third season in charge of Fermanagh.

Progress has been steady. They won the Division 4 title in 2019 and lifted the All-Ireland junior crown last December. His day job, though he is currently furloughed, is as Games Development Officer for Fermanagh GAA. 

He was heavily involved in Gaelic Games during his 17 years in England, but understandably the seven-month stint as performance analyst with Pep Guardiola’s Man City in 2017 is a valuable reference point for Garrity in his continued development as a coach.

Arriving in Manchester with just a further education college course behind him, he studied to be a fitness instructor and got a job in a gym. He signed up with Oisin GAA club and would go on to play with men’s senior team for 14 years.

While still in his early 20s, he took charge of the club’s ladies side who his sisters were involved with.

“I really enjoyed it,” Garrity tells The42. “I think I had a good knack for it and a good way of communicating. I enjoyed it and that was the start of my coaching journey. I stayed within the ladies side of the game as it allowed me to play throughout my coaching career too. 

“I’ve grown as a coach but certainly when I started as a coach I was quite greedy and selfish from my point of view.

“It was an opportunity to go out and win more medals. I had an opportunity to go out and win a league and championship at senior and junior level with my club in a playing capacity. That all of a sudden doubled when I started managing the ladies team.”

By that stage he was studying an undergraduate course at Manchester Metropolitan University in exercise and sport science with the view of becoming a primary school teacher. 

After going into the classroom Garrity soon realised teaching wasn’t for him and he wanted to work in a sporting environment full-time. He returned to complete a Masters degree under programme lead Dr Ryan Groom, who worked with England and Tottenham in the past and has strong links with Man City.

He’s probably one of the prominent voices within performance analysis research in the UK,” Garrity says.

“Man City would usually get one or two Masters students per year to come into their performance analysis department and Ryan asked me if I’d be interested. Which I obviously was.

jonny-garrity Garrity during the All-Ireland Ladies junior final against Wicklow. Source: ©INPHO

“From there I had an interview with Man City and started soon after. I was doing that on a casual basis alongside my Masters studies.”

He’ll never forget the first morning he arrived into the club’s £200m training facility at the Etihad Campus in the summer of 2017.

“It was crazy for them to give me my name badge with the Man City crest on it. It was mental. At that point in time after being in my fourth or fifth year or full-time studies, I had no money. I was driving around in a wee old beaten up Astra.

“So I’m driving through the gates and I’m trying to park as far away from the building as I can to hide the car and walk on up. It was surreal but it was brilliant. I was made to feel very welcome early on.

“You soon forget about the surroundings and just get on with your job but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that every now and again you’d have a wee moment where you’d look around and think, ‘Am I really here?’

“But it was great, it was a fantastic place to go and call your place of work. I feel really lucky to have had that experience.”

Garrity’s role involved working in the performance analysis department which dealt with underage sides.

“Whenever people ask me about my time at City, the tendency is to think I’d have been much more heavier involved than I was. And to think, ‘He was performance analyst for Man City so that must mean he was with the first team or working alongside Guardiola and his backroom team.

“The reality was very different. It was a big team of analysts. We were in the academy department so I was working as part of that multidisciplinary team. It wasn’t quite as spectacular as it would be made out to be.”

Phil Foden and Jaden Sancho were the star players in the City academy at the time. 

Late in Garrity’ stint at the club Foden starred in England’s U17 World Cup victory, scoring two goals in the final win over Spain and winning player of the tournament.

Sancho, meanwhile, was sold to Borussia Dortmund that August for a fee reported to be in the region of £8 million. 

Both youngsters have since developed into full internationals with Foden effectively replacing David Silva in the City engine room, while Sancho has been heavily linked with a big money move to rivals Man Utd.

“Look it was fantastic. We were working with some amazing footballers and it was great to see them in action. Some of the players that were involved then are now with the senior team. 

“Phil Foden is the one that does jump out. He was the main man in the U19s at that time and he was being talked about in the academy a lot as somebody that could make it and obviously has made it since.”

manchester-city-training-city-football-academy Man City boss Pep Guardiola. Source: Martin Rickett

Of Sancho he says, “I don’t think he’d every played senior football for City. But it just goes to show you one signing like that a year keeps the whole operation running for maybe two or three years.”

While ‘culture’ might be a word that has become a cliche in sport, Garrity was able to witness first-hand the environment Guardiola created in City from top to bottom. One where all members of the club are respected, regardless of their role.

It’s something he has sought to recreate within his own GAA teams.

“For me, team culture is absolutely vital. It’s the foundation of everything else that I do. A big part of that would have been seen in action with Man City to be honest.

“I’ll give you an example. It was probably the first time I was in and we were walking through the academy picking up my training gear and stuff like that. There were some young players walking and they mightn’t have known who the coaches were.

“There’s such a big coaching team with sports science and support staff, but they’re all wearing the same uniform. Whenever the young lads seen the uniform they instantly showed respect and it was high fives to every one of us. It took me back a bit.

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“Usually you just walk past somebody but they it was actively a shared acknowledgement of something bigger than themselves. I thought that was excellent, it spoke volumes to me. I always found the players there did very well to show a real ego, certainly in a detrimental way.

“I’m not saying they were perfect or didn’t have ego, but they certainly knew their place in a big organisation. That they were part of something much bigger than themselves and happy to be there. They showed gratitude, were very well mannered and all those things would contribute to a really healthy team culture.

“Those little things amount to something much bigger and they’d be things I’d always be keen to try implement with teams I’m involved with.”

jonny-garrity Garrity with his team before the 2019 All-Ireland final loss to Louth. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Garrity and his fiancé had always planned to move home after they both finished their respective Masters, so he didn’t pursue the opportunity to remain at Man City. 

“If you’re going to go home you’re going to have to do it at some point, otherwise it would never happen. We both wanted to settle at home.

“It was Sod’s law that the opportunity with City came up so near the end but with hindsight I should have gone into further education when I was over first as opposed to the last few years.

“I’ve no regrets about that either, I’ve had some fantastic experiences through my profession over there as well.”

He bided his time before taking charge of Fermanagh ladies and in his full-time coaching role with youngsters, where his apprenticeship continues apace.

“I haven’t visualised exactly where it’ll end up but one thing I’m keen on doing is not putting a limit on where it will end up. I would be very ambitious, I’m hungry and while I enjoy what I’m doing I’m going to keep doing it to the maximum that I can.

“At the moment I just have a real passion for it, I love it. So I don’t know where it’ll end up. I’d imagine at some point I’ll cross over to the men’s game whenever the energy left in the legs leaves them and I finish up playing.

“I’ll probably move across to the men’s game at some point in the future. Although I’m in no rush to, I’m enjoying working with the girls as well. So I’m relaxed about it but I’m ambitious.”

It’s been quite a journey from so far. And you get the sense he’s only getting going. 

Right now, Garrity sounds like a man absolutely at home.

****

Jonny Garrity was a guest speaker at a series of free performance analysis webinars hosted by Performa Sports. The webinars are available to watch back for free at https://www.performasports.com/webinars

Garrity’s Gaelic football analysis webinar can be viewed here.

Screenshot 2021-03-31 at 13.50.12

About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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