Captain Morgan ready to rumble

HE’S firmly established himself now as the pre-eminent netminder out Trabeg way, but Briain Morgan’s introduction to life between the sticks for Nemo Rangers was more an accident than an act of grand design.

“It was a bit of a fluke really, about 12 or 13 years ago,” he recalls. “I had always played outfield in Gaelic but in goal in soccer. One year we had a bit of a crisis with the intermediates, I think the goalkeeper had to go away with work and we didn’t have a minor or U21 coming through. I was a sub at the time and it was actually Ephie Fitzgerald who went in goal but I said, ‘Listen, I’ll play in goal’.Obviously they saw something they liked and I’ve been in there since then. Funnily enough, around the same time as that, I began to play out the field in soccer.”

The bloodlines suggested he wasalways destined for that position. The Morgan name is synonymous with protecting goalmouths in Nemo Rangers and when your father is Billy, there is a wealth of expertise to absorb.

“I remember when I was young, Dad used to go up training two Barr’s greats, the late John Kerins and Ger Cunningham, in Sullivan’s Quay. They used to have a game of slogs, basically a game with the goals 20 yards apart. I used to love falling in with them, and when you’re with three guys like that you’re obviously going to pick up a thing or two along the way.

“To be honest I like to consider myself my own man, I’m BriainMorgan rather than Billy Morgan’s son. Obviously the comparisons are going to be there, that’s only human nature, but I don’t necessarily think there’s any extra pressure just because my last name is Morgan.

“Maybe every once in a while he’ll give me constructive criticism, the main thing he gives out to me about is that my kickouts are a way longer than his were! But he’s very good when things don’t go well. Last year when I made a mistake against Carbery for a goal, he was the first onto the pitch. I hate being reminded of it but it was my fault. He was very good at that time.”

There have been other influences that have helped shape Morgan’s goalkeeping ideals and in that regard he tips his hat in the direction of two Nemo greats, Don Heaphy and Don Bevan.

“I was quite lucky when I went into goal as well with Nemo, Don Heaphy was the senior goalkeeper and Don Bevan was doing the senior goalkeeping training. To me Don Bevan was one of the best goalkeepers ever from his displays in football and soccer. He was one of my main inspirations in goal.”

He’s garnered county medals before but tomorrow’s senior decider is an epochal occasion for him. When the green and black hordes take to the field, it will be Morgan leading Nemo Rangers from the front.

“It’s a tremendous feeling when you’re told you’re going to be made captain at the start of the year. You’d feel proud of yourself, especially when it’s a club like Nemo, with such a great history. Myself and Eddie (Kirwan) are the same age as each other and it was after a gym session at the start of the year, pre-season training, that he came up to me.

“I thought he was going to say that maybe it was time to give one of the other keepers a go or something like that. But when he said he wanted me to be captain, it came as a great surprise but I was delighted to do it. At the start I was thinking I had to go and do more now, but I had a chat with my dad and you don’t really, you just have to concentrate on doing your own game right.”

The afternoon is spiced by the fact that it is St Finbarr’s they are colliding with. Nemo Rangers have defeated southside neighbours Bishopstown and Douglas in finals over the past decade, but tradition dictates that the rivalry with St Finbarr’s carries greater resonance. Between school and socialising, Morgan has grown up cheek by jowl with their players.

“I remember going to see ‘Barrs Nemo play in the county final in 1993 when I was a young fella. In all the weeks leading up to that, it was a huge thing. They’re our traditional rivals going back to the 70’s and if you asked anyone around here, they’d say that.

“He’s going to kill me, but one of my groomsmen is actually a ‘Barrs man, Conor Fitzgerald, who played in a county final when he was only 17. I’d know a lot of the lads fairly well, if you go through the team. You’ve Michael Ryan, the goalkeeper Kevin McTernan, I was in school then with Aidan O’Shea and I played soccer with their wing-back Colin Lyons last year. We’d all be friends but that all goes on Sunday and until Monday evening, when we’ll probably meet for a few drinks.”

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