AS A centre half Jackie Morley had few peers as he was one of the classiest defenders and was hugely respected and admired both on and off the field.
At a time when soccer was on a high and attracting huge crowds on Leeside Jackie was one of the stars of the game.
Like many players of his generation Jackie started of playing Gaelic football when attending Sullivan’s Quay school.
After playing with Evergreen in soccer Jackie’s skills was soon noticed by Jerome Scanlan and Eddie O’Connor.
He duly signed for Evergreen United as an amateur in 1954 at the age of 18 as the Cork side were under the management of Tommy Moroney.
Evergreen were a class side boasting players like Sean ‘Brasso’ McCarthy, George Lynam, Tommy Carberry and Jeremiah ‘Bonty’ Lynch in their ranks.
Indeed, Jackie had to wait until late in the year to get a run in the first team as he began his apprenticeship playing in the reserves.
Morley’s breakthrough came when Lynch emigrated to England and he came in as left half for a Donnelly Cup game against Wembley in 1954.
It took a further two years for Morley to establish himself into the side and it wasn’t until 1956 did Morley sample a taste of a huge crowd at the Mardyke when Evergreen lost a famous Cup tie at which sideline seats were introduced.
Jackie was soon attracting cross-channel interest and West Ham signed him in September 1956.
The West Ham match programme read the following week.
“We extend a welcome today to Jackie Morley who has been playing with Evergreen United in the League of Ireland.
“He was recommended to us by their manager ex-Hammer Tommy Moroney.
“The six-footer is only 20 years of age and has been regularly and his skills include being a good ballplayer and has been pursued by many clubs.
“We hope to have him in our line-up very soon once he has settled into our routine.”
Morley’s move to London proved difficult as he found it hard to make the breakthrough to the first team and was confined to just seven league games.
Morley returned to Cork in 1959 and began a nine-year stint with Cork Hibs during which he won 11 Inter-league caps.
One game that stands out for Jackie was playing against England at Bristol where the opposition had star performers like Jimmy Greaves, Bryan Douglas, Johnny Haynes and Roy Painter.
After a hard-fought game, England won 5-2 but Jackie also contested two FAI Cup finals with Cork Hibs.
The next move for Jackie saw him join Waterford United and his arrival saw the club rise to new heights.
The Waterford side had been a sleeping giant, but Morley’s arrival triggered an immediate response as his personal commitment to the team off the pitch was mirrored by his teammates on the pitch.
Jackie travelled to Waterford every Wednesday to train with Peter Thomas, Alfie Hale, Jimmy McGeogh and Johnny Mathews as they gradually knitted into a formidable side.
Morley’s dedication was such that he used to take two weeks holiday in Tramore to participate in a fortnight’s pre-season training and the dedication paid off as Waterford were crowned 1969 League of Ireland champions.
This Waterford side never went out to defend as entertainment was the name of their game and it was this attitude that helped the club cement a remarkable friendship with the great Manchester United side of that era.
One remarkable day at Lansdowne Road saw Waterford United play Manchester United in a European Cup tie that attracted 52,000 people to the Dublin venue that saw United win 3-1.
The icing on the cake came for the Waterford team when they travelled to Old Trafford to face a United team that included stars like Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, Paddy Crerand and the legendary George Best in their line up.
Despite another gutsy performance, Waterford were blitzed 7-1 by the classy United outfit and the following season he played against top Turkish side Galtasaray in the same competition.
The 1972 thriller at Flower Lodge against Cork Hibs is one Morley will never forget as Waterford came from two goals down to defeat Cork Hibs 3-2 and clinch the title.
Few would argue that Jackie Morley was a true sportsman throughout his illustrious career.
Sadly Jackie passed away in November 2013 at the age of 79 but his skills will never be forgotten by those fortunate to see him play.
Jackie Morley began his career in 1954 with Evergreen United and became an instant star under the management of Tommy Moroney.
Morley joined West Ham from Evergreen United in 1956.
He won four League of Ireland championships with Waterford United.
Morley played in the 1969 European Cup with Waterford United against Manchester United.
He passed away in November 2013 at the age of 79.