Éamonn Fitzmaurice has lauded the determination of defender Tadhg Morley in overcoming several hurdles to break onto the Kerry team this summer.
The 22-year old, despite not being part of the Kerry panel during the league, made his championship debut when selected at left half-back for last month’s Munster semi-final against Clare.
A primary school teacher in Dublin, Morley — the first Templenoe native to play championship football for Kerry since the Spillane brothers in the late 80s — has been making the long drive back to Killarney for mid-week training since becoming a “bone fide” member of the squad following the league’s conclusion at the end of April. His late introduction to the fold is heavily linked to Templenoe’s extended run in the All-Ireland junior club series — Morley led the South Kerry club up the steps of the Hogan Stand in early February.
It was his second All-Ireland medal in the space of six months having figured at centre-back on the Kerry junior team that went the distance last summer and Fitzmaurice admitted that he is a player who could have been at risk of falling through the cracks had he not been part of Stephen Wallace’s set-up.
“He’s been living and working in Dublin for the last four or five years. So that has been a challenge for him,” said the Kerry manager.
“He’s a primary school teacher so he’s off for the summer. Thankfully, he’s nearly there now.
“He’s been on the radar for the last couple of years. He was in and out of the squad last year without being a bone fide member. The [club campaign] was a challenge for him, of course, but he was doing the S&C programme the lads were doing. It’s worked out better for him this year. “
Morley’s start against Clare, along with that of Brian Ó Beaglaoich, meant the likes of Marc Ó Sé and Jonathan Lyne had to be content with spending the early part of the afternoon in the stand. Surely that made for an interesting last couple of weeks in terms of more experienced players reacting to the shift, if ever so slight, towards new and younger blood?
“I’ve to give massive credit to the lads for as long as I’ve been involved, every fella reacts in a very positive way. They fight for their spot after they’ve been left out and after they get less game time than they figure they should get.
“The environment we try to create is that there is a very healthy competition within the squad and fellas are battling for their positions. They know that nobody can take their place for granted and you have to be playing well at a given time to get on the team.”
Indeed, Fitzmaurice reckons every member of the Kerry camp has a point to prove off the back of last year’s unsuccessful title defence.
“We have a lot to prove, myself included. When you are All-Ireland champions, it is a different challenge, both as a manager and a player. We had the disappointment of the league final but that has kind of sharpened our focus again. So far, I would think this year has been more enjoyable.”
He continued: “I said it when I got the job that it was something that came my way. When you are offered the chance to do it, you have to do it and that’s it. I enjoy it, I really enjoy it.”
Like a drug, almost?
“I can see what Mick O’Dwyer was talking about, alright. You can’t explain to people on the outside when you are involved with a group, both backroom team and players, that are all going in the same direction in that there is a positive energy, it a nice place to be and nice place to be working. I am privileged to be in this position.”
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