Tipperary U20 captain Craig Morgan says teammate Jake Morris is a hurler who “has everything”.
Morris, who featured in all eight of Tipperary’s gamesen route to Liam MacCarthy glory, among the scorers in five of them, is the key man for the county’s U20 side as they bid to land the first All-Ireland of this new grade.
The Nenagh Éire Óg sharpshooter has hit 2-21 in their run to the U20 decider and his duel with Cork’s Ger Millerick will be the fascinating subplot of this evening’s final. Morgan, who regularly picks up Morris at training and when their respective clubs cross paths, believes the 20-year old is a player who has it all.
“He has everything,” Morgan insisted. “He’s still at a very young age, he has a lot of time left. He’s only 21 next year, but he’s showing how good he is. He’s shown the talent that he has. It was great to see someone from our team, who is a big leader, coming on for the seniors and making a big impact [in an All-Ireland final]. He came on and got a good score. That gives us a lift.
“It was great for us to see Jake, Jerome [Cahill], and Paddy [Cadell] up with the seniors. They’re three leaders on our team, leaders that can come back now and will be able to inspire us to win our own All-Ireland.”
Morgan was present in Croke Park for the win over Kilkenny last Sunday and couldn’t help but let his mind wander when Seamus Callanan climbed the steps of the Hogan Stand.
“When you were watching it you’d be thinking, ‘I hope that’s me’. Even when I was watching the match and when they’re walking behind the band beforehand, I was thinking, ‘jeez, this could be us next week’. You get excited, but you have to keep your feet on the ground because you have to be in the right frame of mind for the big day.”
The Premier County are chasing a first senior/U20 double since 2010 when the U21s walloped Galway, amid a carnival atmosphere on home soil in Thurles, six days after securing Liam MacCarthy.
“I was at that U21 final, it was a great win for Tipp. The Tipp public gave great support for the U21s the week after the senior and, hopefully, we can get the same support this weekend. It was a great win for the Tipp seniors last Sunday and it gives us a bit of a boost going into this Saturday. The Tipp supporters will be on a high and, hopefully, we can finish it on a high.”
With Morgan’s only experience of captaincy being at U12 and U14 level in the colours of his club Kilruane MacDonaghs, the defender was surprised to be asked to take on the role by manager Liam Cahill at the outset of the campaign.
The corner-back was part of last year’s U21 panel, coming off the bench against Cork in both the Munster final hammering and All-Ireland decider triumph. As those 2018 clashes proved, it is not easy beat the same team twice in one summer, the very feat the Premier are attempting to achieve this evening.
“I learnt a good bit from being involved last year, the experience of getting to an All-Ireland final, having a setback as we did in the Munster final, and just watching the lads and how they picked themselves up and went again. It was a great learning curve for me,to be on the panel and then to come on in the All-Ireland final was great.
"We know how Cork are feeling now because we felt it last year. Last month’s Munster final is a great motivation for them coming in. And we need to be motivated ourselves, to be ready, because Cork are going to be coming at us and we need to be ready for what’s coming.
"We’ve been in their position and we know what it takes to pick yourself up and go again. We just have to keep the foot down now and finish it off.”
Cork player Craig Hanifin, echoing the words of Rebel captain James Keating,has stressed the sense of unfinished business in their camp.
“This group, between the Munster final and All-Ireland minor final, have a bit of unfinished business with this All-Ireland,” said Na Piarsaigh forward Hanifin, who started their three games in Munster but is named among the subs this evening.
“You’d hear a bit of criticism in our own county that this team is just there, but not getting over the line [in big games]. That is hurtful to hear. That is why we are trying to prove to our own county, first, and then everyone outside of Cork that we can get to a final, go hard at it and see out the deal in the end. The most important thing is that we have a cup on the table in our Gaelic Grounds dressing room.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion and the people of Cork, obviously, want to see Cork teams doing well. And we obviously don’t want to be getting to finals and losing. You don’t want to be known as the team that just gets to finals. There already has been a Munster minor title (2017) and Munster U21 title (2018), so it is just about taking that final step to get over the line in these games.
“That is how we want to be remembered, not as the team that fell short at the final hurdle every time.”