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The Dubliner who swings for England

George Michael; Peter Sellers; Mick Jagger. To that eclectic list add the name of Dubliner Eoin Morgan.

There's no doubt that it's in illustrious company where the gifted left-handed batsman currently resides.

The connection, you might ask? More of that anon.

Since the age of 15, London has been a second home for the former CUS (Catholic University School) graduate. And though the streets may not quite be paved with gold, as it has been said for generations, it was a city where he could showcase his talents at the highest level.

For ability can and will only get you so far in life; it takes both a merciless work ethic and opportunity itself to ultimately drive you over the finishing line.

He found professional recognition in Middlesex Cricket Club, his playground being the iconic Lord's ground in St John's Wood. There are some days when he still pinches himself at the panorama.

A love of the game was imbued by parents Olivia and Jody in their children, and the journey has taken their second youngest son to the far reaches of the sporting world.

It's with a sense of animation that Eoin talks about cricket in South Africa, his favourite nation to play in, and a land where he blew the English selectors' minds with prolific innings of 85 not out (an individual record for England in the Twenty20 format) against the hosts late last year.

This coming fresh from his 67 runs off just 34 balls against a highly rated Sri Lanka, ensured that his star would continue to rise steadily upwards.

He has captained his native Ireland in an underage World Cup and played in the famous (or infamous) victory over Pakistan in the 2007 Caribbean odyssey. In March he will compete in the IPL (Indian Premier League), where it took a bid from the Royal Challengers Bangalore of €160,000 to secure his services.

Destined

These are mere snapshots into a career destined for success. Now aged 23, he can aspire, with reason, to advance his career over at least the next decade at the top echelons of the international game.

Despite the faintest of cockney twangs edging sporadically into his drawl, he retains the Irishness which drove him to pursue his dreams eight years ago.

"Eight years", he muses. "It goes by so fast."

After starring for England in the shorter game in South Africa, he took time out to travel with friends in his favourite land before enjoying a visit home to Dublin before Christmas. He sprinkles every tale with fond recollections of his friends and family, of those who stuck by him through thick and thin from the beginning.

"After the series I stayed on in Cape Town for a bit of a break with friends before returning to Dublin on December 22, and it was great to unwind and catch up on all the news from home.

"The busier I get, the less frequent I can get home, especially during the summer months, but it was great to catch up with the North County lads, friends I've had since my teenage years.

"My family have played a massive role in supporting me and keeping me grounded, and sometimes you do miss them when you're away. But you come home and you have that grounding and it means the world to me."

Growing up around the Trinity Sports Grounds in Santry, where his father Jody was the groundsman, it was inevitable that sport would play a central role in his later life. Gaelic games, rugby and golf were all played, as the seasons came and went, but it was cricket which consistently captivated the Morgan family.

Educated initially in St Catherine's National School in Rush, he honed a love of hurling there, which, it has been suggested in English cricketing circles, supplemented his playing style.

Though Morgan reckons the comparison is "blown out of proportion" (a study which claimed that between the ages of 9-12 young sports people develop their skills and playing styles for later life), there is something distinctly unique about the wristy, innovative freedom which regularly finds the boundary -- and big boundaries at that.

Ferried

Summers were spent in North County, Malahide and Rush (incidentally, he would earn All-Ireland honours with the former two clubs) and he was ferried across the junior and senior landscapes crashing unfortunate bowlers to length and breadth of the province -- and beyond.

His mother having been born in Ipswich also entitled her children to a British passport, thus establishing a link with a nation he would in later life represent.

Does flying the Irish flag in England, for England, present any difficulties? "I'm a patriotic man and I'm especially proud to be an Irishman playing in England.

"When I first moved to Middlesex, at the age of 15, I played for their under-19s and I knew that I had to impress even more as a foreigner coming into an alien environment. There was an element of homesickness at first, which is only natural because I'm a home-bird, but I knew that I was fulfiling my dreams so I stuck with it, kept the head down and worked hard.

"Ed Joyce was already here and he really helped me. Even though he has moved to Sussex, we stay in touch and I stay in regular with a lot of my friends, like Boyd (Rankin) who's living up in Birmingham and playing for Warwickshire, while (Ireland skipper) William Porterfield is one of my best friends.

"I think that a lot of positive things are happening for Irish cricket just now, and the fact that more players have become centrally contracted can only further push the country's standing in years to come.

"These are opportunities that Ed (Joyce) or I didn't have a few years ago, so hopefully it will enable more players to stay at home and develop their skills and raise the standard of the domestic game even higher.

"Growing up it seemed that nobody outside our clubs, or even outside my family, recognised cricket as a sport! Thankfully, since the World Cup, that has changed, and more and more people are playing the game.

"If you were to ask me whether Ireland will play Test cricket in the short term, then maybe not, but it's not inconceivable. I believe that Ireland have overtaken the likes of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, and with increased funding, who knows? I hope it does happen."

St Patrick's Day 2007 and the victory over Pakistan was the highlight of his international career with Ireland, as Adrian Birrell's men caused the greatest upset in the history of the sport. "To have so many friends and family there... The lap of honour around the ground at the end... it was such a special time. I still watch the highlights from that game, even now," he admits.

He returned to Middlesex that summer and within two years has progressed to senior international level, on the way earning plaudits for his innovative, attacking play from the likes of England great Ian Botham and current England captain Andrew Strauss, who is also a fan.

On tour, he immerses himself in his local habitat away from the stresses of international cricket, spending down days walking, shopping and keeping tracks on his other sporting loves: Dublin (Gaelic), Manchester United (football) and Leinster (rugby) -- who he took time out of his arduous winter training schedule to support in their recent Heineken Cup draw at Twickenham against London Irish.

In down days, he sometimes loses himself in the city, or after practice he might walk around his home ground absorbing the history, looking at the names of heroes like Brian Lara, Viv Richards and Shane Warne in the Long Room. Those constant reminders of greatness burning into his mind a desire to succeed and exceed.

At the age of 23 he has already cross- sectioned the globe and back again. "It's ridiculous, I really need to get my act together and sort out the air miles!" he grins, ignoring the distinct reality that his journey is only beginning.

You sense a frustration in his voice when you talk about 'one day specialists', for he craves acceptance in the longer format. With England's recent middle order deficiencies exposed in South Africa, his chance could come sooner rather than later.

He didn't watch the live bidding for his services, instead opting to lie on in bed and had to be woken up at 7am by his house-mate with the news. "It was a bit surreal, like watching yourself in a game of 'Championship Manager', but it did give me a boost of confidence knowing that they have placed such faith in me."

For now he is looking forward to cementing his status, not as a 'fifth-of-a- Million-Dollar-man', but as a batsman who consistently delivers when the chips are down.

Rekindling

Soon he will be joining Kevin Pietersen in a cricket-mad land, it will be his third visit to India, and he will be rekindling a middle-order partnership, though in its infancy, which you must assume cries out runs and bowler heartbreak.

As always with Morgan, he leaves you with a smile. Ask him to recount his favourite sledging story and he recalls: "An ex-team-mate of mine with Middlesex called Paul Weekes was batting one day against Lancashire and he nicked the ball to slip but didn't walk.

"Stuart Law, a former Australian international, was in the fielding side and asked him, 'You nicked that didn't you, why didn't you walk?' To which Paul admitted he did and said, 'I'm not doing you lot any favours'. 'Why not?' Law asked straight-faced, 'You did us enough favours when you were bowling...'"

Is sledging something he gets involved in. With a smile he replies: "I'm Irish; I can give as good as I get..."

Home will always be Dublin, but for now he has settled in Finchley in North London, 20 minutes from Lord's and at one time or another the home suburb of some of England's most charismatic entertainers.

Morgan's on the trail and the future's bright. But the ambition burns brighter still.


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