GAA Football

Stevie McDonnell rows in behind under-fire 'keeper Niall Morgan over Darragh O'Hanlon reaction

Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan bends over Down's Darragh O'Hanlon after he missed a goal chance during Sunday's Ulster final at Clones Picture by Seamus Loughran

FORMER Armagh star Stevie McDonnell has defended Tyrone’s under-fire goalkeeper Niall Morgan for confronting Darragh O’Hanlon after the Down defender missed a goal chance in the first half of last Sunday’s Ulster final.

Morgan came under attack on social media after the game for his alleged ‘sledging’ of the Kilcoo player – but McDonnell feels the incident has been blown out of proportion.

“It’s an Ulster final where there’s a lot at stake. It’s a heat of the moment thing, a reaction that happens. It happens out the field all the time during matches, so I wouldn’t be too concerned or worried about it if I was Niall Morgan.

“It’s something that happens in football. It’s here to stay for a while. I’d love to see it eradicated from the game and it’s difficult for measures to stamp it out of the game.”

A player can be black-carded if a 'sledging' incident is proven during a game.

Morgan was criticised by newspaper columnist Alan Brogan as O'Hanlon lay on the ground.

The former Dublin ace compared Morgan with former team-mate Stephen Cluxton.

“Niall Morgan is a very good goalkeeper, he's a very good place kicker, he's very strong on his kick-out, but that sort of behaviour is not what you see from Stephen Cluxton...

“When you're getting involved in that sort of stuff it's distracting your mind from what you should be doing.

“I was surprised at this stage to see him engaging in that sort of stuff, and sometimes it goes on around the field, but for Niall Morgan to be doing it is silly."

McDonnell, however, didn’t accept Brogan’s depiction of Cluxton arguing that nearly every GAA player has a rap sheet, including the legendary 'keeper.

“I’ve seen Stephen Cluxton react the wrong way in games,” said the Killeavy clubman.

“I remember he punched Jason McAteer in a charity match when he wasn’t getting it all his own way.

“He got sent off for striking out at me in 2003. Cluxton is no angel.”

During his playing days McDonnell’s ultra-competitive nature saw him react in a similar fashion to Morgan.

In the 2008 Ulster final he confronted Fermanagh goalkeeper Ronan Gallagher after he scored a goal for Armagh, claiming that the former St Gall’s man had been goading him during the game.

“Anyone who does what Niall did in a big match will regret it.

“He probably regretted it going under the tunnel at half-time but he can’t change it.

“People’s opinions will be different. Some people on social media will say that he was correct in what he did; other people will lambast him. You’re never going to please everyone.”

Antrim goalkeeper Chris Kerr offered his support to Morgan via Twitter, commenting: “Did Niall Morgan kill someone during yesterday’s Ulster final or did I miss that part? Catch a grip...”

With Tyrone’s All-Ireland quarter-final against the winners of Kildare and Armagh scheduled for Saturday August 5, McDonnell noted: “There always seems to be more of a spotlight on the Ulster teams when something like this happens.”

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