46 years on from winning his first county title, we spoke to Nemo great Billy Morgan
BY SHANE STAPLETON
It’s 46 years since Billy Morgan lifted his first county title with Nemo Rangers. He was 27 years of age, had just come back from doing a PE Course in Strawberry Beds in London, and was asked to train the team.
Not only that, but Morgan was elected captain by the management and his team-mates. UCC would stand in their way. Talk about pressure.
Strikingly, he played on some great teams for the college between 1965 and ’68, but always came up short. Ironically, UCC won it in the years either side of that.
“When I came back from UCC, I wasn't playing particularly well for the club and it annoyed me,” says Morgan at the inaugural AIB GAA club player awards. “Perhaps I was trying too hard.
“My first year back from UCC, we met UCC in the semi-final of the county and I was at fault for two goals. They only won by just a few points, so I always felt that I left the club down a bit.
“I wanted to make up for it, and wasn't playing that well up until the final in 1972 when I had a good game in that final. So I was delighted.”
They’d collapsed in the final a couple of years earlier against divisional side Muskerry, and Morgan admits he began to despair “will I ever win a county title?”.
“My memories of the final whistle were the euphoria or whatever and the relief,” Morgan recalls of the 2-9 to 0-8 win against UCC.
“John Corcoran, our right corner-back, his mother who was on the committee that used to be making sandwiches and that... it was a muddy day, she jumped on top of me and her dress was destroyed with mud. That's the first thing I remember.
“I don't remember the speech too much. It was the old Athletic Grounds in Cork which had a ramshackle stand and I was presented with the cup on the lower steps.
“As far as I know I didn't say too much because at that stage all you want to do is get out of there and go back and celebrate.”
Morgan has eight county medals in his collection, including 1988 when he had retired but came back for the semi-final due to an injury; he returned to the bench for the final. His involvement on the sideline for the club spans the decades, and even now he’s returned in a small coaching capacity under new senior boss Paul O’Donovan.
As he explains himself, it’s hard to give it up. The Cork legend remains in charge of the UCC Sigerson side — which he took up in 2010 — and has recently been over the club intermediate side.
The 1989 and 1990 All-Ireland manager with the Rebels is delighted to see club players honoured with the new AIB awards, stating: “Yeah it's brilliant because a lot of clubs would have two or three senior inter-county players who do get exposure, but there is always a few there that are great club men who always turn up for everything and for them to get some kind of recognition at the end of it is brilliant. I'm all for it.”
No doubt many Nemo players down through the years would’ve picked up gongs for the parts they played in the club’s huge success.
Morgan explains one of his most memorable games between the sticks for Rangers, and explains why winning it on the field trumped any success he had on the sideline.
“(In the 1979 All-Ireland club final against Scotstown), it was so cold that myself and Frank Hogan had a bottle of brandy and we took a sip each before we went out.
“I don't know if Danny Allen even drank at the time but he said give me a sup of that. We came in and had a sup at half-time too.
“There were times in that game that I could hardly see the other goal because of the blizzard, but we won that and comfortably in the end (2-9 to 1-3).
“Oh nothing beats winning as a player, everything after is a poor second,” Morgan smiles.
“I remember when we used to play a charity soccer game with the GAA golden oldies against the ex-professionals. I was in my mid- to late-30s at the time and I was thinking about packing it in.
“Ex-professionals that would have been heroes of mine, such as Ray Cowie and Donie Leahy, I remember talking to them about it afterwards. They said to me 'Billy as long as you enjoy it keep playing it, because everything after it is a poor second'. You can't beat playing.”