IAN MORRIS certainly enjoyed his first taste of a derby game in his native Dublin.
He came off the bench and went on to score the key spot kick in a penalty shoot-out defeat of Shamrock Rovers in the EA Sports Cup semi-final on Monday. And with another bout of derby action tonight when those clubs clash at the same venue, this time in the Premier Division, he’s keen for more.
Having just returned to Ireland after a 10-year spell as a pro across the English leagues, Morris says he’s been bowled over by the standard in the league here - with a major regret that the crowds don’t match up with the quality of play.
“I never really followed the League of Ireland when I was younger but I took an interest In the last year or two and went to a few games before I joined Pats,” says Morris, who had spells with Leeds United, Scunthorpe, Torquay and Northampton Town, playing over 200 league games.
“I was happy to join the club because to me, they are the most exciting team in the league, the best footballing side. When I began training with them I could really see the talent and the quality that was there, I was shocked they weren’t top of the league.
“The game is different here from the scene in England. From my experience the tempo here is higher than you’d get in League One or League Two. It’s a lot more physical in the leagues I played in over there and , from what I have seen so far here, you do get more time on the ball.”
But attendances have been a shock to the 28-year-old. “At Northampton last year we would have played Portsmouth, who get 20,000 people at most home games, I played against Bradford who get big gates,” he says.
“We have a derby against Rovers tonight, I don’t know what the crowd will be but I remember playing for Scunthorpe away to Hull in the Championship in front of 20,000 people. I don’t know why the crowds in the League of Ireland are so low in comparison, the games are good quality and if you live in Dublin it’s right there on your doorstep, I’d love to see bigger crowds at the games here. In England, you see more people supporting their local team than you do in Dublin. You still get kids who support Man City or Liverpool but overall more people follow their local side in somewhere like Northampton.”
Morris was very glad to have the option of returning home this summer to Dublin to play for the Saints, after recovering from a knee injury - picked up in training with Northampton last year - which could have ended his career. He fought his way back to fitness and is now in a Pats side fighting for honours.
“I came here to win silverware, the League Cup is the first chance to do that and hopefully I can win more before the season’s over,” he says. “We’re in good form in the league, seven wins on the bounce now and hopefully we can keep that going.”