Club All-Stars – Stephen Morris

Had it not been for a hand injury picked up in training days before the championship final, there’s no telling where the Gerry Fegan Cup would have ended up.

While Maghery will claim they still would have been good enough to lift the trophy no matter what, the fact Cross were without Stephen Morris was a big plus for the eventual winners.

Morris had been in exceptional form all season, peaking in the semi-final win over Killeavy, and was one of the standout performers in the whole championship.

His three showings against Silverbridge, Mullaghbawn and Killeavy was enough to earn him his first club All-Star at centre-field.

“It’s good to get recognised in the county, for the top 15 footballers. It would have been a bit of a surprise. To be honest I wouldn’t have been thinking about it after the final because we got beat. The main goal is obviously to win the championship.

It’s a nice wee boost after a bad enough year, I wouldn’t have been thinking about it throughout the year, but it’s a nice wee bonus”.

Luck was not on his side however and he missed out on capturing a third championship medal. “I broke my hand; it was the Monday night before the final.

I went to Craigavon that night and found out it was broke in two places and then I just kept it quiet the whole week and tried to help the boys in training as much as I could”.

“It was just in training, we were doing a football drill and I was about to tackle and just whatever way I hit the man, I just heard the crack, I couldn’t feel the fingers and I knew something was wrong.

I was going to just try and strap it up and go on, but the physio said to go and get it checked out just to be sure with the week that was in it and I found out it was broke then”.

The introduction of Ben Crealey to the middle of the field helped turn the tide for Maghery in the showpiece and Morris watched on helplessly from the sideline.

“I thought the boys done well, the lads that were filling in, Rian (O’Neill) and (Callum) Cumiskey did well in midfield. It was rank watching and not being able to help, it’s definitely one I’ll remember but hopefully we’ll get back and try to rectify it this year.

It was definitely frustrating; we all know it was the first final loss from 1982. It was a tough one to take but we just have to work hard this year and try to get back on track.

The club probably hasn’t been where it’s wanted to be in the last five to ten years really, so we just have to try and get it back to where we want it”.

Morris wasn’t the only one to miss out as Tiernan McConville similarly picked up an injury before the decider.

The pair have built up a good relationship over the last number of years as the team favours a long kick out approach.

“The way that Cross is, we like to go long and as quick as we can to move the ball on, it’s been drilled into us the last couple of years to try and get the ball out as quick as we can. Stephen (Kernan) just wants me to be there as an option, both midfielders there as an option to help out every time and move the ball on.

Me and Tiernan get on well and we would probably have a wee bit of a connection. We usually stay on after training to do some kick outs together. He was a big miss in the final too, massive miss in the final”.

While he missed out on the showpiece, he was in brilliant form beforehand and hit three early points against Killeavy in the semi-final.

“Whenever Jim (McConville) came in last year that’s the first thing he said to me, he wants me to get forward more and get involved in the forward play. I would have only been going so far and then taking a step back while he wants me to get involved in the forward play more, so I’m definitely trying to improve on that”.

While his scoring ability certainly caught the eye, it’s in the air that Morris really stands out, and the Cross midfielder is in favour of the mark rule.

“I definitely like the mark rule, round the middle. I think high fielding has always been a great part of the game and everyone enjoys good high fielding. It promotes long kicking as well and as a midfielder, the one thing I hate is short kickouts.

It’s not necessarily (worked on in training) but we always be working on our handling obviously and we just want to move the ball on as quick as we can and get it down to the forwards.”

Armagh football seems to have taken a turn, with the senior championship now more competitive, with three different winners in the last five years.

The current crop of Crossmaglen men hope to emulate the dominance that went before them, which brings its own pressure.

“There’s probably a wee bit of pressure, that’s what you get whenever you play with Cross. But the boys, the likes of Aaron (Kernan), Tony (Kernan), Kyle (Carragher), Garvan (Carragher) and now with Stephen (Kernan) as manager, they always just want us to play football.

We’ve always been told from a young age to just go out and play football and control what you can control. There definitely is a wee bit of pressure playing with Cross, as people say pressure is a privilege so we definitely enjoy it, and we’re definitely going to try and push on”.