Prof. Aidan Moran: Inspired a Generation – Dr. Tadhg MacIntyre

 “In Memoriam” Prof. Aidan Moran (University College Dublin, Ireland).

Aidan Moran (1956-2020), Full Professor of Cognitive Psychology at University College Dublin (UCD), sadly passed away on March 16th, 2020. His extensive accomplishments as a scholar have been eulogised elsewhere but here we reflect on his role in supporting the advancement of sport psychology at PESS and across the island of Ireland. Aidan supervised both Mark Campbell and I at UCD, was an external examiner for PESS graduate Paul McCarthy and had forged strong friendships and collaborations with our own Prof. Pat Duffy, Dr Deirdre Lyons, Dr PJ Smyth, Prof. Drew Harrison and Dr Giles Warrington (Head of Dept.). Aidan accomplished far more than conduct ground-breaking research in mental imagery, attention, and cognitive expertise, he supported a generation of practitioners, researchers and educators in the field across Ireland, and inspired many more beyond our shores.

A Fulbright Scholarship award for Aidan enabled him to spend a sabbatical in the United States (both PJ Smyth and Aidan shared this prestigious honour). Aidan visited the University of Florida, University of New York (SUNY) and at the US Olympic Training Centre in Colorado Springs forging collaborations with Dr Sean McCann (USOC), Dr Shane Murphy (formerly USOC), Prof. Robert Singer (University of Florida) and many others. Returning to the States in 2007 for research visits to Boston meeting with Prof. Stephen Kosslyn (Harvard) and Prof. Christian Collet and Prof. Aymeric Guillot (UCB Lyon), led to a fruitful research collaboration and lasting friendships and influenced much of his outputs on mental imagery. Many of the aforementioned visited Ireland including Professors Dan Gould, Bob Weinberg, Anders Ericsson, and Dr Bruce Hale sharing ideas on theory, practice and the advancement of the field of sport psychology.

Ironically for a scientist-practitioner who influenced the field greatly, Aidan was reluctant to assume the label sport psychologist. In his own words captured in Becoming a Sport Psychologist by PESS graduate Paul McCarthy (Glasgow Caledonian University) and Marc Jones (Manchester Metropolitan University): “I don’t regard myself as a sport psychologist at all. …since I don’t have any formal qualifications in sport psychology.” Sport for Aidan, was both a playground for his own pursuits in competitive tennis and a natural laboratory for the study of the cognition and action. As a practitioner, he guided the professionalisation of the discipline in Ireland with a special issue of the Irish Journal of Psychology in 1998, consulting with many elite performers including three times major winning golfer Padraig Harrington and more recently chairing the Sport Ireland Institute Quality Assurance Committee (2008-2012) where he worked closely with the chairperson Prof. Drew Harrison. As a founder member of the PSI Division of Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology, he gave guidance to Mark Campbell and I on the development of training opportunities for neophyte practitioners in Ireland.

Aidan established a vast network of collaborators internationally many of them becoming regular contributors to the development of PESS as a centre of excellence in cognitive sport psychology, well-being and professional practice issues. Prof. Marc Jones (MMU), part of the GOGREEN ROUTES H2020 project, Prof Craig Mahoney (Principal Officer, UWS) who was External Examiner of our Masters programmes in sport psychology at PESS, and PESS adjunct Professor David Lavallee (Abertay University) all frequent visitors to UL with impressive contributions to our activities at PESS.

Dedications to Prof. Aidan Moran

“I met Aidan and worked with him several times in Ireland and France. We collaborated in a very complementary way and I remember his permanent good mood and his special humor.

He used to always greet us the same way with an energetic “Hi Guys” when he met us in the morning before starting the day’s work. We then kept this usage in our laboratory. I am very sad to see him disappear at an age when he should have continued the job he liked so much and enjoy life. We already miss him in our work but also as a man because his company was very pleasant and enriching.”  Prof . Christian Collet, University of Lyon – France.

I will always remember Aidan’s curiosity. In ways reminiscent to Piaget’s studies with his own children, Aidan was always exploring his deep fascinations in real life. He was once in my lounge many years ago when one of my sons was 5 years old. Aidan and I were talking about imagery and he asked my son if he could picture his nursery playground with his eyes closed. My son, who was lying on the floor, closed his eyes and said that he could see the fence at one end of the playground. Aidan then asked if he could see the opposite end of the playground.  My son then stood up, with eyes still closed, and turned the other way and laid back down – and said, yes, I can see it!  Aidan loved how my son had actually rotated himself rather than rotating the image in his mind.  My son is now at university and benefits from a copy of Aidan’s book, Managing Your Own Learning at University, that Aidan gave to him.” Prof. David Lavallee, Abertay University 

“Aidan was the type of person anyone would aspire to be. He had a quiet reverence that invited you in and made you feel he thought you were his equal. He paved the way for sport psychology in Ireland, without his efforts many of us wouldn’t be where we are today”.  Dr Hannah McCormack, Rugby Players Ireland

“I have no words after such a tragedy. Aidan was a kind and wonderful person, with real human qualities. He was passionate in his work and substantially contributed to scientific knowledge in the field of sport psychology. He will definitely be missed by a lot of persons including, for sure his family and friends, but also his collaborators and students, and more generally the whole scientific community. I will never forget our meetings at many occasions, for instance when I came to Ireland, and when we travelled with Tadhg and him in the US for one of our numerous fruitful collaborations. It’s really difficult to accept.”  Prof. Aymeric Guillot, University of Lyon – France.

“Aidan was a great psychologist who made an immense contribution to sport psychology in Ireland and beyond. He had a deserved global reputation for excellence in both sport psychology research and practice. He was, more importantly, a great person. He managed to maintain the highest standards and strive for excellence while at the same time being very supportive and encouraging of others in the field.  I will always be grateful for the personal support and opportunities he provided for me.” Prof Marc Jones, Manchester Metropolitan University

“Though I grew up on a family farm in West Cork, sinking a spade into gravelly ground was not my calling. I didn’t know my calling until I heard Aidan deliver a presentation in UCD at the inaugural meeting of the Exercise and Sports Sciences Association of Ireland in 1998. I knew immediately how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. A few years later I was honoured that Aidan agreed to examine my PhD. Aidan helped co-author my first book with Dr Jamie Barker and Professor Marc Jones. As I look back over these years, I can only think what luck I’ve had! What to luck to have heard Aidan lecture, what luck to have Aidan guide my first steps in the field, what luck to have Aidan examine my PhD, and what luck to have him help me with books, publications, research and practice. I owe Aidan an endless debt of gratitude. He set a standard of scholarship, kindness, consideration and compassion that will always endure.”  Dr Paul McCarthy, Glasgow Caledonian University

“As an emigrant from Australia, returning to my ancestral homeland, Aidan was a beacon of hope, inspiration and guidance for me. A genuine friend, he offered me support after we met in the early 1990’s as part of the Irish sport psychology panel which provided service provision for Olympic athletes. A superb and learned psychologist, more content with this label than being a specialist within sport, Aidan was a lighthouse for practitioners, students and performers, and I was privileged to know him.” Prof Craig Mahoney, University of the West of Scotland.

Thank you for all that you have brought us Aidan.

Our thoughts go out to wife Angela, son Kevin and family.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam

Feature Image: L-R: Dr Mark Campbell, Prof. Drew Harrison, Prof. Aidan Moran, Dr Noel Brick, Dr Eric Igou, Dr Tadhg MacIntyre

Dr. Tadhg MacIntyre ( is the Course Director of the graduate training programmes in Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology at PESS and coordinator of the Horizon 2020 project GO GREEN ROUTES on urban health and well-being at the Health Research Institute.

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