Friday 15 December 2017

Morrissey able to see both sides

But his heart is still in Kilkenny, as he tells Marie Crowe

Eamonn Morrissey could feel the years catching up on him. The speed was going from the legs and his days with Kilkenny were drawing to a close. After years of driving up and down from Dublin it was time to make a decision.

"I was 30 when I left Kilkenny and I was just getting too old," he says. "I was coming to a stage when I would have been struggling to stay on the team. I was living in Dublin and I was travelling up and down for the eight years I had been playing for Kilkenny and it was a hassle. Then you get married and kids come along and it gets harder."

A corner-forward on the Kilkenny team that put back-to-back All-Irelands together in 1992 and '93, he knew he was leaving the heady days behind him. Ironically, he had featured on the team which had cruelly put a stop to the Lar Foley-inspired renaissance in Dublin hurling in the 1991 Leinster final, when Kilkenny scraped home by two points. It has taken the Dubs 18 years to get over that day. Morrissey thought he had a fair idea what to expect when he made the move. He saw a vast difference between the two counties at club level but there were surprises in store too.

"The standard of hurling was the biggest difference. The top four clubs in Dublin could rival the clubs at home but in Kilkenny you had 12 clubs in the championship and any of those clubs could win it whereas in Dublin it could be any of the big four who could win it. In the rest of the clubs there was a major fall-off in the standard of hurling. There just wasn't a large quantity of hurlers in Dublin.

"But there was a higher level of intensity in the training in Dublin. They were big into physical training so you were fitter than you would have been playing for Kilkenny. In Kilkenny, they were more into their hurling training."

Morrissey's time in Kilkenny was a successful one but he's heard the stories about life under Cody, leaving him to marvel at how much they have moved on in the last decade. In his day, arriving to training ten minutes late was acceptable. "When we had training at half seven, we would arrive in at 20 to eight and it would be grand, then John Power would rush in five minutes later having just milked the cows."

That won't wash now. To make Brian Cody's starting 15, you have to be seen to be eager. Those that want it most are out on the field an hour before training starts. "I never trained under Cody but I can see he has taken it to a whole new level, everything is so organised now if you want an autograph you have to go to the autograph room -- it's Manchester United stuff. Even though they are not getting paid for it they are professionals."

Dublin hurling may never reach the highs of Kilkenny, but Morrissey believes the Blues are on the brink of success and that Anthony Daly has given them hope for the future. "Daly has bought another element to Dublin and a bit of confidence as well but they have good hurlers too. David O'Callaghan in the corner gave Kilkenny fierce trouble in the league in Nowlan Park. They need to shackle him up or a lot of damage could be done.

"I think Dublin will have to up their game ten times more than they did against Wexford, they need to do what Galway did at the start but couldn't maintain. They need to spread out their play and open up Kilkenny's backline."

Morrissey is clear about the outcome he would like to see today. "I would always support Kilkenny. You never forget your roots. I hope Dublin do well but I would always be backing Kilkenny and I don't think anyone will surpass them."

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