GAA Football

Niall Morgan not taking his place with Tyrone for granted

Tyrone keeper Niall Morgan gets in some hicking practice during the 2017 Ireland International Rules squad training match at Punt Road Oval, Yarra Park, Melbourne, Australia
Francis Mooney

HE may have been Tyrone’s first choice number one last season, but Niall Morgan is still on trial, and fighting for his place.

But the Edendork man is grateful for the fierce competition from Mickey O’Neill, with whom he has been rotating the goalkeeping slot during the Dr McKenna Cup.

Morgan feels the battle for selection will make both men better ’keepers, as they take their turn between the posts.

O’Neill played against Fermanagh last weekend, so it appears it’s Morgan’s turn to operate as last line of defence in the opening NFL tie against Galway on Sunday week, after the Dr McKenna Cup final was postponed.

“You just have to accept it. Obviously everybody wants to play every game, but it’s good that both of us are getting plenty of game time,” said Morgan.

“I suppose that’s the important thing for us as goalkeepers getting to the final, because it gets us the extra game.

“It would probably be more frustrating if we weren’t getting to finals, and we were only getting maybe a game and a half each, or whatever way it would have to work.

“It’s great competition. The two of us get on really well. It would be different if you were saying I didn’t like him, but we do get on really well, and it’s good to push each other on, and we’re probably better goalkeepers because of it.”

Tyrone have won the last six McKenna Cup titles, and manager Mickey Harte is showing no signs of cooling in his affection for the pre-season competition.

“It’s always nice to be in finals, no matter what the competition. I know some people write off the McKenna Cup, but obviously Tyrone have shown over the years that we do take it seriously,” said Morgan.

“It’s always nice to be in finals, no matter what the competition. I know some people write off the McKenna Cup, but obviously Tyrone have shown over the years that we do take it seriously.”

“No matter what trophy is at stake, you want to win. That’s why you play football, and we’re more than happy to be in the final.”

Morgan is hoping for a firmer sod and kinder weather conditions for the decider, after the Red Hands and Fermanagh slogged it out on a muddy Brewster Park surface last Sunday.

“It was a dogfight, and we knew it was going to be a dogfight, with the weather, the conditions, the pitch. It’s a slow pitch regardless of when you play on it, but sometimes it’s good to come through games like that rather than come through nice clean games. Sometimes you have to go into the dogfight and show that you can win them as well.”

The start of the National Football League is just over a week away, and Morgan believes Tyrone are in a no-win situation as they travel to take on Division One newcomers Galway in their opening tie.

“Going to Salthill for the opening game is probably the hardest game that we could go to, because everybody is expecting us to win, and no matter what way be go, we’re going to be the losers out of it.

“If we win, people will say we were expected to win, and if we lose, people will say, what’s going on here, why are yous getting beat by Galway.

“We’re just going to have to put the head down, and get ready for it. We’ll have to be well prepared.”

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