Ryan Byrne/INPHO Tadhg Morley celebrates Kerry's win over Dublin.
# Tadhg Morley
Kerry's defensive stopper, a key meeting with Jack and the perfect view for O'Shea free
The countdown is on to Sunday’s All-Ireland final.

TADHG MORLEY HAD one of the best views in the house.

As thousands of people in Croke Park focused their gaze on Sean O’Shea as he sized up that kick from distance into the noisy blue wall, Morley paused to consider the significance of his team-mate’s kick.

“I was thinking to myself, ‘Actually this is an amazing moment here altogether, I’m going to stand right behind him here and have some picture of it.’

“I’d full faith in him…no I was the cratur who thought of maybe calling Shane Ryan up for a look of it. He was fairly turned away straight away. I’d faith in Shane too!

“Everyone had faith in Seánie that he was going to do it. He’s a supreme kicking footballer. To be behind him and seeing it bend in there was a class moment for sure.”

Templenoe native Morley is well acquainted with O’Shea from next door in Kenmare. They played together for the local district team, a group of clubs that banded together to form the side that contested the Kerry county senior final in 2016.

Defeat was their lot at the hands of Dr Crokes on that occasion and there is some lingering regret that they never managed to get over the line as a group. Now both Templenoe and Kenmare are senior outfits in their own right. Morley is a primary school teacher in Kenmare, where O’Shea teaches in the secondary school, and the defensive stopper can this summer see the excitement an extended run for Kerry generates.

He’s central to their hopes on All-Ireland final week. Morley’s position has been one of the most scrutinised in the Kingdom setup, his defensive screening a central ingredient in their improvement in cutting down on the concession of goals.

When they exited the 2021 championship at the hands of Tyrone, Morley entered the game as an extra-time substitute. This year he has pinned down a regular defensive position.

“I met Jack shortly after he was appointed as Kerry manager,” recalls Morley.

“In fairness to Jack he’s a very good man-manager. He went around and met all the players around Kerry, which is a really good touch I thought. It showed a good progression and good management skills.

“I’d a good chat with him. He kind of saw me more as a half-back player, that’s probably my most natural position to be out there. There wasn’t anything specifically said about sweeping. We had a good discussion then about the role of a number 6 and what he was looking for in that.

“I tried to do that then for the sessions we had post that meeting into the league. Me and Jack have developed a really good relationship we’re able to chat about different things and it’s developed from there really.”

Last year was a frustrating one for Morley. He was shown a red card in the league against Roscommon and a black card in the championship against Tipperary. The campaign had a stop-start feel to it for him personally but this year there has been a greater flow.

Even for their Munster opener against Cork as a debate flared over a suitable venue, the choice of Páirc Uí Rinn was not one Morley was resisting.

“Our thing was we didn’t mind where we played them. If it was on below in Kilcummin we’d play them there. My opinion on it and the opinion of a lot of the players was the tougher the better, we needed a real good test in the Munster championship this year. If that meant playing in Páirc Uí Rinn and it being a bit tighter, a good tough game, that’s what we needed and that’s what we wanted.”

Guidance has changed this year with the addition of Paddy Tally as coach and a renewed focus on defence.

“Paddy does a bit of everything to be honest with you. He’s an incredible coach. He runs some really good training sessions with Jack and Micheál [Quirke] and Murph
[Diarmuid Murphy] are all involved in as well.

“Coming rom the Tyrone game last year we were just really disappointed with the goals that we conceded. Three in that game, we conceded four in a league game against Dublin in Thurles so we knew we weren’t going to win an All Ireland the way that was happening.

“We’re looking at the defence from 15 back, so like when we lose the ball the lads are working really hard up front, putting in some big tackles. We’re really priding ourselves in our defending for sure. It’s a huge thing for us to get a turnover and to hear the Kerry supporters roaring and shouting and cheering us on. We’ll have to have a few more of them against Galway.”

Positive steps were taken in the league this year, emerging victorious in fierce contests like Mayo in Tralee and away to Armagh.

Then came the semi-final breakthrough against Dublin, a major stride forward but one that required calm after.

“There was the initial release of emotion at the final whistle the last day, but once we came into the dressing room then we calmed things down,” said Morley

“We spoke about Mayo beating the Dubs last year, and they not finishing out the job. We came down on the bus and it was difficult to get to sleep alright, there was still a bit of a buzz there.

“We had gym Tuesday and once lads got back in together then it was the best thing.We kind of parked it [Dublin] Tuesday night and finished our review of the Dublin game and honed in on Galway.

“It was a quick turnaround, but Jack and the lads spoke very well. Jack has so much experience. Straight after the match he knew what to say to bring us back down to
earth. Us kind of talking to Seánie more about his penalty than his free probably helped as well!”

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