GAA Football

Tyrone and Niall Morgan wary of Longford shock

Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan is warning his side against taking Longford lightly when they visit Glennon Bros Pearse Park on Saturday Picture by Seamus Loughran
Francis Mooney

NIALL Morgan says Tyrone can't afford to take anything for granted against a Longford side with a voracious appetite for big Championship scalps.

Many big guns have fallen at Pearse Park in Qualifier shocks, with Mayo, Monaghan, Down, and Derry all sent crashing out of the All-Ireland race at the compact, hostile venue.

The threat is real, the danger evident, and the Red Hands will ignore them at their peril as they head to the Midlands for Saturday's sudden death tie.

"I'm sure at the start of the year winning an All-Ireland wasn't a target for Longford, but taking on and beating a Division One side would be very realistic for them," said the Tyrone goalkeeper.

"They will feel that they have at least one big game in them and would see us as a big scalp and we have to be ready for the battle that lies ahead.

"They might play their league football in Division Three, but as we have seen time and time again, that means nothing when it comes to the Qualifiers as anything can happen on any given day.

"It will be my first time to play against Longford since I joined the squad in 2013. I'm well aware however of their record in the Qualifiers, particularly at home, as they have beaten the likes of Monaghan in recent times."

Tyrone are under pressure to find form and bounce back from a disappointing performance in an Ulster SFC semi-final defeat to Donegal.

On the other hand, Longford go into this Round 2 Qualifier with nothing to lose as they plot the downfall of last year's beaten All-Ireland finalists.

"There is no pressure on Longford, it's the ideal scenario for them, a free hit if you like. It's a win-win for them and a lose-lose for us so we need to be on our guard and we certainly won't be taking them for granted," said Morgan.

"I was talking to a friend of mine from Kildare and he was telling me how difficult it was for them at Pearse Park in the Leinster Championship when they got a draw after extra-time. He said the pitch is tight and when Longford played well the home support really got behind them so it's a dangerous game for us."

A first defeat to Donegal in four Championship meetings halted Tyrone's Ulster title charge in its tracks, with serious concerns emerging over a system malfunction at Kingspan Breffni Park.

But some straight-talking in an open squad forum has since addressed pressing issues and brought a renewed focus to the project.

"We talked about the Donegal game and we were all brutally honest with each other and held our hands up, and we know that we have a number of things to fix. Our basics were good the last day and we have worked on them and training has gone well and there is a good positivity about the place.

"Thankfully we have had a couple of weeks training since the Donegal game, and we have worked hard on the things that didn't go well for us the last day. If this weekend's game had come just a week after that defeat we maybe would have been papering over cracks, so to speak, so it was good to get that extra week.

"It was very disappointing and in the immediate aftermath of the game it was difficult to pinpoint exactly what went wrong. We made a lot of poor decisions out on the field and some days you just have to hold your hands up and say that you were beaten by the better team and Donegal were certainly the better team on the day and well worth their victory."

But there's no room for error any more. This is sudden death knock-out football, and Tyrone cannot afford to under-perform.

If they do, they could become the latest giant to perish in an infamous Qualifier graveyard.

"It's the only option open to us now, it's do or die and we are determined to make the most of it as we don't want our season to end early. It's now like club championship football in Tyrone, there isn't another chance and we have to go out with that attitude and perform".

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