Captain Morgan: From an avid Irish cricketer to captaining England in World Cup final

Born in Dublin and raised in the small town of Rush, the journey of Eoin Morgan is nothing less than fascinating as the England captain is all set to lead his side in the World Cup final against New Zealand at Lord's.

Having guided his team to the final, Eoin Morgan would eye to lift the World Cup at Lord's.   -  GETTY IMAGES

It takes nearly nine hours to drive down to London from the small seaside town of Rush. Contrary to its name, the Irish town is laid-back and people here are easy going. They love their music, their culture, their sport and of course Eoin Morgan.

After all, this is where the England cricket captain grew up and started his cricketing sojourn, many summers ago. While cricket was never the most loved sport in the small corner of the Fingal coast, it remained special for the Morgan family.

Morgan’s father, Jodie, was the third XI captain at the Rush Cricket Club in County Dublin, and the locals remember how he would bring his children - three sons and two daughters - to the Rush Cricket Club and encourage them to play for long hours.

The club, surrounded by concrete walls on three sides, was hardly 15 minutes away from the Morgans’ home and most of the time, the kids could be seen playing at the ground.

Eoin Morgan (holding the trophy) during his early days at the Rush Cricket Club.   -  Matt Sheridan

 

“This is where Eoin learned his game. He would initially watch his seniors play, but slowly, he too got into the groove,” Matt Sheridan, a former president at Rush Cricket Club and Morgan’s first coach, tells Sportstar.

The seasoned administrator remembers how a young Morgan would hit the nets and would look comfortable against bowlers, who were slightly elder to him.

“Back then, we had 13 members in the youth team. He was hardly six or seven then, and was quite small in stature. But right from then, he valued his wicket. He played cricket everyday in the week,” Sheridan says.

With the family completely backing him, Morgan, Sheridan feels, was much ahead of his time.

When he was hardly six, Morgan travelled to Eglinton in Northern Ireland, along with his father and brothers. They had gone to play an All-Ireland Cup game, and due to some unavoidable circumstances, the fixture had to be postponed to a Friday.

With some of the regulars missing out on the game due to last-minute change in dates, the Rush Cricket Club roped in young Morgan in the side. Even though he did not get a chance to bat, the young gun was part of the winning team.

Former Rush president and Eoin Morgan's first coach, Matt Sheridan.   -  Matt Sheridan

 

“Cricket was part of the family. His grandfather played cricket, so did his uncles, brothers and also sisters. Cricket was in their blood. He was destined to be a cricketer,” Sheridan says.

Walking down memory lane, Sheridan also remembers an incident when Morgan paired with his younger sister Gwen.

“At the U-11 level, we would encourage double wicket cricket, where both boys and girls would team up. We would field the best players with the ones who were not so good. So, Eoin would be paired with Gwen and his job was to protect her from strike,” Sheridan reminisces.

“Those were 20 over matches and each pair would get to bat for four overs. Gwen would get to face very few balls because Eoin was always batting. So as a sister, her job was to take singles whenever Eoin said so.”

Even though the family shifted to the Malahide Cricket Club, Sheridan and other members of the Rush Cricket Club made sure they kept a tab on the youngster’s performance.

After shifting to the new club, Morgan was enrolled by the Catholic University School, where his cricketing career got a new direction. In the first U-13 fixture that he featured, Morgan scored a double century - in just 20 overs!

Eoin Morgan during his visit to the Rush Cricket Club.   -  Matt Sheridan

 

He was slowly drafted into the main team and eventually he was soon noticed by the Ireland cricket bosses.

By the time, he turned 15, Morgan was already discussing a contract with Middlesex and broke into the Ireland national team, the next year.

“I saw him when he was 16, or may be, much younger than that. Back then, I was also the U-19 coach of Ireland and he was part of the U-19 World Cups. As a young player, he had lot of experience and he was very talented. He stood out in Ireland,” Adrian Birrell, a former Ireland coach, says.

When Morgan played his first ODI against Scotland in 2006, Birrell was the coach of the side and he was mighty impressed with the way he batted. Even though he was run out on 99, Morgan stamped his class. “He was tremendous talent,” Birrell says.

The coach also remembers how Morgan’s father had told him about his son’s ambition to play Test cricket for England.

“His family had a meeting with me… The vision was to play for England. But we wanted him to play for Ireland and gain experience,” Birrell says.

At the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies, Morgan batted at No. 3 and slowly made his presence felt and soon he was on board with Middlesex.

The Rush Cricket Club ground where Eoin Morgan honed his skills.   -  Matt Sheridan

 

There was no looking back since then.

In 2009, Morgan was picked by England and there started a new journey. It was bumpy for sure, but Morgan slowly took things in his stride.

After a disappointing World Cup outing in 2015, England regrouped under the watchful eyes of coach Trevor Bayliss and captain Morgan.

And their hard work has paid off four years later as the team will feature in its first World Cup final, since 1992, at Lord’s on Sunday.

Just like millions of England fans, the people at Ireland would also want their ‘lad’ to guide England to its first World Cup title against New Zealand.

“We are very pleased for him. It is amazing that if England can win this title, the first England captain will come from a small town in Ireland. That’s an amazing feeling,” Sheridan says.

So, ‘It’s coming home’? Morgan’s well-wishers would hope so!