Wednesday 21 August 2019

'It took an Irishman to revolutionise the way England play cricket' - Morgan lauded after World Cup glory

England captain Eoin Morgan with the Cricket World Cup trophy during the celebrations today at The Oval, London. Photo: Reuters/Andrew Boyers
England captain Eoin Morgan with the Cricket World Cup trophy during the celebrations today at The Oval, London. Photo: Reuters/Andrew Boyers
Eoin Morgan holds the Cricket World Cup trophy as he meets British Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday. Photo: PA
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

'It took an Irishman to revolutionise the way England play cricket."

Eoin Morgan's first coach, Matt Sheridan, is smiling broadly.

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Rush native Morgan (32) led England to Cricket World Cup victory for the first time on Sunday. It was a match filled with nerve-racking twists and turns, and dubbed an "all-time classic".

"Eoin recruited guys who hit the ball hard and high. He transformed their sport - can you believe that?" says Mr Sheridan.

At Rush Cricket Club, where Morgan first played, the clubhouse was packed to the rafters on Sunday.

"We roared the roof off the place," says chairman Alan Butterly. "We all wanted to see Eoin lifting that trophy. I don't think even in his wildest dreams he imagined that was going to happen."

Morgan began toddling down to the ground 29 years ago, dragging a bat behind him. "He started coming here around three - the bat was the same size as him," says Mr Sheridan.

"This was his safe space. If he wasn't at home in St Catherine's, he was here."

Rush roots: Rush CC youngsters Tomas Armstrong (10), Calum Armstrong, (9), Conor Butterly (11) and Kyle Rock (10). Photo: Damien Eagers
Rush roots: Rush CC youngsters Tomas Armstrong (10), Calum Armstrong, (9), Conor Butterly (11) and Kyle Rock (10). Photo: Damien Eagers
Matt Sheridan, pictured at Rush Cricket Club, he was Eoin Morgan's first coach. Photo: Damien Eagers
Alan Butterly, Chairman of Rush Cricket Club. Photo: Damien Eagers

Morgan grew up in a three- bedroom council house in the nearby St Catherine's Estate and practised on a concrete strip at the end of the terrace.

Cricket is a minority sport in Ireland - for many it conjures up images of cucumber sandwiches and questionable knitwear. But the Morgan household was obsessed. Father Jody missed the birth of Eoin's younger brother because he was playing for Rush.

Eoin's brothers Gavin and Gareth both represented Leinster, while sisters Gwen and Laura played for Ireland.

"[Cricket] was our own thing," Morgan previously explained. "It wasn't a very popular sport. It was something we played together that no one else knew a lot about. It brought us together."

Morgan made his debut for Ireland aged 16 and went on to play in 23 one-day internationals, but his intention from a young age was to play professionally for England.

His mother is from Orford and he has been a British passport holder since birth.

In 2009, he declared for England. The decision to play for 'the Brits' causes some Rush locals to bristle.

In Walsh's Bar, his success is viewed with some suspicion.

"Turncoat" one man grumbles into his drink. Another nods, adding "renegade" as a third barks "West Brit!" matter-of-factly, while smacking a sandwich roll down on the counter-top.

The barmaid tries to inject a sense of diplomacy.

"We'll say the reaction has been mixed. It's great to see what he did and we wish him well but…"

She trails off. On the main street, people are more forgiving.

"I was surprised that he decided to play for England, particularly as the Irish team are so strong," Paul McMullan said.

"But it's still fantastic to see someone doing so well."

Other passers-by are also keen to congratulate Morgan, and commend his talent. Across the water, some English supporters are dumbfounded the Irish managed to make them number one. That's not exactly cricket, now is it?

"Lots of people have opinions about an English captain being an Irishman, and some Irish people feel it's not right," Mr Sheridan says.

"But at the time, he went as far as he could in Irish cricket, he wanted to play cricket at the highest level, and Cricket Ireland were not at that level."

Ireland have only recently been promoted to Test status - when Eoin was 20 that was not the case. The sportsman realised the limitations remaining in Ireland could have.

"There's always a story somewhere in a town or a village or locally about someone not making it," he explained in a short documentary.

"They haven't given it their best shot, or they didn't want to be away from home. If I was going to be good or make the most of my potential I wasn't going to do that in Ireland.

"I realised I would have to go away to get where I want."

Morgan said while his decision to play for England has made some uncomfortable, it "always sat pretty easy with me". Yesterday, he hailed the diversity of his World Cup-winning team in the final at Lord's.

When asked if the luck of the Irish "got England over the line", he replied: "We had Allah with us as well.

"I spoke to Adil (Rashid), he said Allah was definitely with us. I said we had the rub of the green.

"It actually epitomises our team. It has quite diverse backgrounds and cultures."

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