Thursday 22 March 2018

Saints recruit Morris still learning about life back home

St Pat's new signing Ian Morris
St Pat's new signing Ian Morris
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

It's unlikely to ever catch on as a handle, but there have been some attempts to title the meetings of Shamrock Rovers and St Patrick's Athletic as the 'Luas Derby.'

For Saints new boy Ian Morris, the Dubliner who scored the winning penalty in Monday's EA Sports Cup semi-final in Tallaght, that description would still require an explanation.

That's because the 28-year-old is still adjusting to life back in the capital after 12-and-a-half years away in England, admitting that he's finding it hard to figure his way around a city that has changed dramatically in that period.

The Luas was still in construction when he packed his bags for Leeds as a teenager. And the venue for tonight's league meeting between the south Dublin rivals - an encounter which is by far the most significant leg of their double-header at the home of Rovers this week - was a greenfield site with an uncertain future.

"It's a bit of change," he laughs, "Sure I left when I was 15. I wouldn't have been driving or anything so I'm still trying to make my way around the place, with the roads and everything. People are sending me here, there and everywhere.

"I know the city centre a bit, it's not too bad. But a lot of the other areas have changed so much, that I wouldn't know where I'm going."

Morris, who hails from Shankill, explains that he didn't have much time to get home during his breaks. As a married man with two young kids, it was difficult to arrange, especially when injuries halted his progress.

During his last year at Northampton, he spent more time around the club than the fit members of the first team squad because he was doing rehab work on his knee. The versatile midfielder, who also lined out for Northampton, Torquay, Blackpool, Chesterfield and Carlisle, is just happy to be back playing football.

"It is a big change and I am still adjusting," he says. "My wife is from Dublin and she loves being home but we're still getting sorted.

"For me, it's been a long road to get back but I feel fit and strong. Now it's a case of match practice. You can do all the running in the world but playing games is where it's at.

"I could run all day on a treadmill but getting out there and playing a game is a different story, there's a lot of different movement, especially in a team like ours that is doing so well."

When Morris linked up with the Saints towards the end of June, their campaign was steadily gathering momentum after a troubling start. He was aware of individual members of the group, yet was unsure of the general standard.


"The level is very good," he says, "Especially as it's full-time that we train. There's some smashing players here and around the league. I was shocked with the quality at Pat's that we're not right involved at the top of the table.

"Now, we've won seven on the bounce, we're going quietly. I don't think there's a lot of coverage about St Pat's at the minute but we'll be there or thereabouts towards the end of the season."

The final Rovers encounter of 2015 is pivotal for both camps. As it stands, they're tied in third and 11 points behind leaders Dundalk, but the Hoops have a game in hand on Liam Buckley's charges. With the title contenders emphasising the gap between top and bottom by clinically dispensing with the lesser lights, Pat Fenlon acknowledged earlier this week that winning these showdowns is now essential.

"We've got to start beating the teams around us," he admitted.

The difference between third and fourth is €200,000 in UEFA prize-money for European qualification, although Rovers managed to make it from fourth spot last year after Pat's lifted the FAI Cup.

This time around, Rovers have been knocked out of both cup competitions by the men from Inchicore. It means the stakes are high in this televised test with no favours on offer.

Elsewhere, Dundalk welcome Longford Town to Oriel Park with Stephen Kenny stressing that confidence levels remain high despite an EA Sports Cup defeat to Galway with a weakened side.

He's looking to last week's win in Bray for momentum. "It was an important three points for us and I was happy with the level of performance," says Kenny, whose team are six clear of Cork who play Sligo tomorrow.

"We have had two tough games against Longford already this season. They have been difficult opponents but we are playing with confidence at the moment and we want to continue our good form."

Shamrock Rvs v St Pat's Athletic, Live, Setanta Ireland, 8.00pm

Irish Independent

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