Tadgh Morley’s transition from junior football to centre of Kerry defence
Templenoe clubman made his name with the club and has gone from strength to strength
Kerry’s Tadhg Morley has cemented his place in the Kerry team this year. Photograph: Inpho
The Spillane brothers put Templenoe on the map in the 1970s and ’80s, but in 2017 it’s Tadgh Morley who is flying the flag for the tiny rural Kerry club.
The 23-year-old defender was the first player from Templenoe to start a championship game for the Kerry senior team since brothers Pat, Tom and Mick, after catching the eye when captaining his club to the All-Ireland junior title in February 2016.
He made his championship debut the following June against Clare in the Munster semi-final. In his seven championship appearances since he’s established himself as the Kingdom’s first choice centre back, ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final with Mayo.
“I struggled at first to be honest with you,” he says. “ The standard between club junior football and intercounty training is vast. I didn’t get into any league panel in 2016, but I worked away on my own on those weekends when they had league games. I did my own bit of training and eventually got my chance and took it thanks be to God and I’m still there.
When you walk into the dressing room first you’re a bit unsure of yourself, but once you get on the training field and you feel things are going well for you, you feel you belong there
“It was a big culture shock. I remember the first day I came in I might have sat on the Gooch’s seat. Now he didn’t say anything he’d be too nice about it, but you know what I mean. The couple of training sessions after I noticed he was sitting there and I was thinking ‘Christ I sat in his seat the first day’.
“But I’d always have that self belief or whatever. It’s just about getting stuck in. When you walk into the dressing room first you’re a bit unsure of yourself, but once you get on the training field and you feel things are going well for you, you feel you belong there.”
Morley was not entirely new to the intercounty set-up however, he had played for the Kerry Under-21s for three years, one of which under his current manager Éamonn Fitzmaurice. His versatility allows him to fit in perfectly to the role of a modern intercounty halfback.
“I’ve played the games so far but I don’t have the number six jersey yet for next weekend so I wouldn’t be counting my lucky stars just yet.
“And when I’ve number six on my back, it doesn’t mean I’m going to be playing centre-back either. The last day I was on the wing for the majority of the game.
“I suppose the odd time I get a man-marking job but I like to think I played my own ball too, but some days I would be told to go mark a fella. The Ciarán Kilkenny [he marked the Dublin half forward in the Allianz league and final] thing is kind of blown out of proportion a small bit. I was never told go mark him.
“He was playing centre-forward, I was playing centre-back, it just happened. I was marking him, he was marking me. If Eamonn tells me to go man-mark a fella I’ll go man-mark a fella. If he tells me go play ball up the field I’ll go play ball up the field. If he tells me to play corner-back, I’ll play corner-back. I’ll do whatever he wants me to do.”
Morley is now one of three players from his club in the Kerry set-up, along with Gavin Crowley and Adrian Spillane.
“I played Division Five football. I played the whole way up. I won a novice shield, a novice championship, a junior championship and we’re in intermediate now [they lost last year’s final]. I’ve come up through the grades and it does give you confidence. That junior run with Templenoe gave me great confidence.
“The senior team was struggling in the club for a long number of years, struggling to win games – we had 15 or 16 players in 2004/2005.
We had the Golden Years video growing up and it was cool to see Templenoe people playing for Kerry and they put Templenoe on the map.
“But they always kept going for the good of the club. They saw we had great underage teams coming up and they kept at it and they kept going and waited for us to come.
“We had very good underage coaches. Tom Spillane was obviously one of them.”
So what influence did the three famous brothers have on his development?
“I never had Pat as a coach. He was involved in the club as chairman when I was growing up. He managed the senior team when I was in minor, the minor and the senior trained together to make up the numbers and he was training that time which was a big influence obviously. But Tom was one of our underage coaches.
“The three lads, Mick, Tom, Pat they were players for Kerry. Pat had the big name but the two lads, Tom and Mick, were very important as well. We had the Golden Years video growing up and it was cool to see Templenoe people playing for Kerry and they put Templenoe on the map.
“When I was in Dublin, people wouldn’t know Templenoe, but if you mentioned Spillane they’d know where you’re from straight away.”
Now they’re starting to know Tadgh Morley too, Kerry’s centre back.