A whole new ball game

Tue, Sep 22, 2009, 01:00

NEW LIFE:After hanging up his boots following an illustrious career in the League of Ireland, footballer Pat Morley has turned his attention to fashion and opened up a menswear store

BEING THE son of a four time League of Ireland title winner, Pat Morley was born with a ball at his feet, so it was almost inevitable that football would become such a huge part of his own life. He started playing competitively at a very young age and went on to become the second highest goal scorer in the history of the League of Ireland.

The Cork-born striker played for his local club, Wilton Utd, in his teens before playing for 20 years with Cork City FC, Shelbourne, Limerick FC and Waterford Utd. His father, Jackie, played for Waterford Utd where he won four League of Ireland titles in the 1970s.

Pat Morley’s long list of claims to football fame include playing for Glasgow Celtic and Brighton, scoring a hat-trick on his League of Ireland debut for Waterford in 1984, scoring the first goal under lights in Lansdowne Road and playing over 20 times in Europe.

“There were two highlights on a par in my footballing career. Winning the league with my home town, Cork City, was a huge thing in 1993 when the club had just been formed. In 1997, I played for Shelbourne against Glasgow Rangers in the Uefa Cup and scored the third goal live on Eurosports. As a lifelong Celtic fan, to score against their old rivals was fantastic,” he recalls.

After finishing school, Morley went to art college for four years with the ambition of becoming a photographer or graphic designer, but when he left college in 1986, the economy was in a depressed state and there were no jobs.

Like many of his contemporaries, he emigrated to Australia for two years and on his return, he got a job through his soccer connections as a rep with Adidas. After six years working with the company, he went to work for Fila Ireland as a sales manager.

He says: “I really enjoyed my time with Adidas and Fila. I travelled a lot and built up a lot of contacts. I was offered a job in Holland, but I’m a Corkman, I love living in Cork and I wanted to stay here. I started doing my own product sourcing a couple of years ago and felt there was a real opportunity to do something myself in menswear.”

In January of this year, Morley opened the doors of Lapel 1865, an impressive menswear showroom which offers a collection of hire wear and menswear and a bespoke service where customers can choose from an exclusive range of more than 30,000 Italian fabrics.

Located on the outskirts of the city in the Frankfield Business Park, the luxurious and surprisingly spacious showroom boasts individual suites, offering privacy to wedding parties and other customers.

Since the business opened, Morley, who describes himself as something of “a one-man band at the moment”, has been working six days a week, doing everything the business involves from sourcing stock and serving customers to sweeping the floors and hoovering his immaculate premises.

“I am working mad hours at the moment and I need to get some more help. I wasn’t at all put off by opening a new business in the current climate because I knew it could work but the banks have got to start lending again.

“I have a lovely little business here that could employ three, possibly four people, but I need help. Small business owners need tax breaks and the Government needs to look at how to take people off the live register,” he says.

Morley is very aware that now more than ever, people are looking for that little bit extra in terms of value for money and service. Through providing a free shirt with every suit hire, he has managed to attract a lot of business from the local colleges and schools, and he prides himself on the high level of service he offers.

“I had no special training in the business, a lot of it is about having an eye for style. I am interested in style myself, I love my clobber, especially golfwear, and I love pink. A lot of men hate changing rooms, but they love the space and comfort of the private suites here where they are under no pressure to pick their suits.”

When dealing with wedding parties, Morley is all too aware of just how much can go wrong and he insists on the full party coming in for a final fitting 14 days before the wedding to avoid any unpleasant last- minute surprises. He also ensures that every wedding party has their suits up to one week before the big day.

In addition to running his new business, Morley still works for RTÉ on the Monday Night Soccer Show, does the commentary on League of Ireland games on RTÉ television and is father to two sons, the youngest of whom is just one year old. As a result, his regular games of golf have been cut down to Sundays only, and he has no time in his week to fit in fitness training.

However, he says it’s all worth it to be his own boss and one of his best rewards is the smile of pleasure on a new bride’s face when she returns the suits after the wedding, as it is almost always the bride who gets the job, he laughs.

“My plans for the future are to make this a successful business. If you can be successful in these times, you can be successful long term. I’d like to take the brand to other cities over the next five years, while at the same time somehow manage to get to spend a bit more time with family and friends.”