'It's just about getting stuck in' - Morley
Kerry benefit from defender's physical approach on back of his club's rapid rise
Tadhg Morley recalls making the classic rookie mistake when he first entered a Kerry senior dressing-room sometime early in 2016.
Coming off the back of a successful run to an All-Ireland junior club title with emerging Templenoe, Morley's brand of tenacity and athleticism looked the right fit for a Kerry squad needing to keep in step with their capital conquerors from the previous September.
He was a couple of years out from that wave of successful minor teams that continue to enjoy such a grip since 2014, while coming from a club that was in Division 5 just a few short years ago, he admits to that first night being a "big culture shock".
"I remember the first day I came in I might have sat on the Gooch's seat. Now, he didn't say anything, he'd be too nice about it, but you know what I mean," he smiled.
"A couple of training sessions after I noticed he was sitting there and I was thinking, 'Christ, I sat in his seat the first day'.
"It is a culture shock, but they're very good, they really bring on all the younger fellas. I know I'm only there a year or two myself, but I'd like to think I'd help the young fellas out now. It's all about integrating everybody and the lads were always very good to me and that helped a lot."
Self-belief has come quickly. When Kerry won the Division 1 league title in April last, ending Dublin's 36-match unbeaten sequence Morley played a key part in tracking Ciarán Kilkenny, as he had done in the drawn game in Tralee in March.
He plays down the relative success he had in those games against Dublin's playmaker, suggesting it's been "kind of blown out of proportion a small bit.
"I was never told to go mark him. He was playing centre-forward, I was playing centre-back, it just happened. I was marking him, he was marking me. If Eamonn tells me to go man-mark a fella, I'll go man-mark a fella. If he tells me go play ball up the field, I'll go play ball up the field."
That said, when he has to roll up his sleeves, he's quite comfortable doing it and being physical.
"I wouldn't shy away from it. I played Division 5 football in Kerry and you have to be able to get stuck in down there. I just do whatever I'm told. If Eamonn tells me to get stuck in, I'll get stuck in. Half-backs have more of an attacking licence as well. I myself probably need to back myself more in that respect, but as a centre-back sometimes you can't be leaving a gaping hole either. I enjoy the physical aspect."
That league final was notable for another feature he can identify with. By the end of the game Templenoe had more players on the Kerry team than any other club, Gavin Crowley and Adrian Spillane joining him as substitutes which was quite an achievement given the journey they've had.
With the departure of the Spillane brothers, Pat, Tom and Mick, from Kerry teams in the early 1990s, Templenoe had scarcely been mapped but a concentrated underage programme has strengthened them and they've come from the basement to contest a Kerry intermediate final last year.
"The senior team was struggling for a long number of years, struggling to win games," recalled the primary schoolteacher. "You're talking around 2000 to 2005. We only had 15 or 16 players but in fairness they always fulfilled fixtures. They always kept going for the good of the club.
"They saw we had good underage teams coming up and they kept at it and they kept going and waited for us to come. I played minor in Division 1 and the club never really had teams like that.
"We had very good underage coaches. Tom Spillane was obviously one of them. Mike Crowley was another man that trained us all the way up and he became our senior coach then and was a great manager for us and allowed us to play great free-flowing football, which brought us on as footballers. He was the manager who brought us all the way from novice shield to Croke Park, so he was phenomenal."
From Division 5, they've won a novice shield, novice championship, junior championship and are now intermediate.
"I've come up through the grades and it does give you confidence. That junior run with Templenoe gave me great confidence, but training with Kerry and inter-county games is a whole different level altogether.
"You'd always have that self-belief. It's just about getting stuck in. When you walk into the dressing-room first you're a bit unsure of yourself, but once you get on the training field and you feel things are going well for you, you feel you belong there."
Morley's qualities will, most likely, put him on a path with Aidan O'Shea on Sunday and he notes how Mayo are one of the most physical teams around.
"They're big, they're strong runners, they're strong around the middle, they're strong at midfield, they're strong every where. Aidan O'Shea obviously is one of their big physical forces and we'll have to get stuck in. We'd like to think we're physical ourselves. We've come on in that department."
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