Sunday 15 September 2019

Captain Morgan's goal is to follow Callanan's lead and sink Rebels

Tipperary u-20 captain Craig Morgan. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Tipperary u-20 captain Craig Morgan. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Paul Keane

Craig Morgan recalls it as a party, a homecoming of sorts. A celebration of Tipperary hurling.

It's almost half of his young lifetime ago now but the memories of the county's 2010 All-Ireland U-21 win are still there in rich technicolor.

The Tipp U-21s hammered Galway by 25 points that evening in Thurles and, six days after the seniors thwarted Kilkenny's drive for five, more than 21,000 turned out for the carnival, including Morgan. Tipperary officially ruled the hurling world.

Nine years on, they're in a position to repeat the feat, albeit the party will kick off at LIT Gaelic Grounds in Limerick and not Thurles this evening if the U-20s can complete their part of the double.

Morgan, now captain of the Tipp U-20s, was in Croke Park last Sunday to watch Seamus Callanan hoist the Liam MacCarthy Cup and couldn't help his mind from briefly wandering. What if it could be him six days later?

"When you were watching Seamie lifting the cup you'd be thinking, 'Jesus, I hope that's me'," admitted Morgan.

"You'd be saying that to yourself and thinking about the match and getting yourself ready.

"You get excited then but you have to keep your feet on the ground because you have to be in the right frame of mind. It's such a big day coming up."

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There's one giant problem for Tipp, of course, a potential party-pooper - Cork.

Heartache

And after all the heartache that Tipp have delivered upon Cork teams in the last 12 months, the young Rebels would love nothing better than to make off with the James Nowlan Cup.

Cork led by two points in stoppage time in July's Munster final only to be suckered by a Jake Morris match-winning goal for Tipperary.

Something similar happened in last year's All-Ireland final - played at the U-21 grade - when Conor Stakelum provided the late heroics with a match-winning goal.

"We've had great battles with them," said Morgan, selected again at corner-back for this evening's final.

"In the minors, two years ago, they drew with us in Semple Stadium and then beat us in the replay. Last year, in the U-21s, they did beat us in the Munster final but we beat them in the All-Ireland."

Morgan came on as a sub in last year's All-Ireland U-21 decider and was on the pitch for Stakelum's late strike, though Morris was the star with 1-4 on the day.

Morris, Jerome Cahill and Paddy Cadell were all on the successful senior panel this summer with Morris coming on in last weekend's final and scoring a point against Kilkenny.

"I was delighted when he came on," said Morgan. "It was great to see, someone ftrm our team and one of our big leaders coming on for the seniors and making a big impact."

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