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16th Feb 2023

Mark Cronin hails Billy Morgan and UCC’s famous skull and crossbones as their inspiration

Niall McIntyre

The UCC players charged out of the dressing room before the 2011 Sigerson Cup final against against UUJ.

Adrian Greaney had them jumping out of their collective skins. The Kerryman was ruled out of the game through injury but, as team captain, he still had a contribution to make.

Emotion can be a great motivator and, sick as he was not to be playing, he played on his own personal disappointment to great effect.

Legend has it that, after a riveting ‘Any Given Sunday’ style speech, he had the hair standing on the back of his team-mates’ necks by pointing to the skull and crossbones  he’d drawn on his cast.

The skull and crossbones is theUCC emblem, and it has always carried a certain weight for ‘The College.’

Its origins date back to the late 1800s when, as a medical school for junior doctors, the skull and crossbones was a fitting coat of arms for this institution.

Fast forward almost 150 years and, for the 2023 Sigerson Cup final, the Cork college still took inspiration from their iconic badge, as man-of-the-match Mark Cronin explained his post-match interview on TG4.

Cronin was hailing the team’s legendary manager Billy Morgan when he mentioned that, during the week, the 78-year-old talked to them about their logo.

“You can’t put it into words,” said Cronin, who kicked 0-5 in their win over UL.

“Billy’s quite a humble man, and he won’t admit it, but you know when he comes into the room because there’s an aura about him.

“And fellas grip onto anything he says.

“As was mentioned during the week, he instills everything about the skull and cross-bones (into the team) and you can see how much it means to him tonight.”

Traditionally, the skull and crossbones was used by pirate ships to warn of imminent attack. Having led this final at half-time, UCC had to sit and suffer through an attack of their own, but they endured, and having made it to extra-time, they kicked onto win the game by three points on a scoreline of 1-16 to 0-16.

It was manager Morgan’s sixth time to win the Sigerson Cup, and his fourth as a manager.

“It sums up Sigerson those conditions,” added Cronin.

“You can’t expect anything else at this time of the year. But we got there in the end, we ground it out. We know to stay calm and trust it and the next score is always the most important one.”

UCC stuck together, and as their former five-time Fitzgibbon winning player John Grainger once said, it’s no secret what brings them close.

“Billy has stuck to the values that we place on our Gaelic football teams; we don’t care where people come from, we don’t have any parish.

“The thing that binds us together is the skull and crossbones crest. That is our flag.”

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