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Morgan proud of club-mate Kilpatrick for going public with gambling problems

Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan does not believe the Ulster Senior Football Championship will be devalued by being played earlier in the year Picture: Seamus Loughran.
By Paul Keane

NIALL Morgan has revealed he was in the dark about the full extent of All-Ireland winning colleague and clubmate Conn Kilpatrick's gambling problems.

Tyrone midfielder Kilpatrick recently went public about a gambling addiction that he first revealed to family and close friends in 2018.

The 23-year-old said that after running up debts of over £10,000 he abstained from gambling for 18 months or so at that stage before starting again.

Tyrone and Edendork team-mate Morgan said he was aware of Kilpatrick's issues in 2018 but was surprised to learn the full details of Kilpatrick's relapse when he ran up significant debts again before entering recovery.

"Conn plays for my club obviously and even I didn't know the extent of things," said All-Ireland winning goalkeeper Morgan.

"I knew the issue was there the first time around. I knew he had got help, I knew that it had been fixed. Then I heard the relapse had happened. I spoke to him briefly, I don't like being intrusive but I made sure everything was okay and stuff like that. But I didn't know the full extent of it.

"I think it was a massively brave thing to do (to go public). He put himself in a very vulnerable position. I know that the GPA did provide him with help, and his family and friends and the club were all behind him as well.

"I'm proud, not only of him on the football pitch but for what he's done off it because he'll never know the extent of how many people he has helped, both now and going into the future.

"I think it shows the human side of him too. People all too often see county players as, that we're there for entertainment nearly, that we don't have lives outside of actually playing county football.

"For him to put himself in that vulnerable position of almost playing the bad guy, I suppose, and expressing what he has been through and being able to turn his life around to the point that he has been able to become an All-Ireland winner, I think it means he's only going to reap serious rewards in the future and, hopefully, people in a similar position."

Morgan was speaking at a press briefing organised by the Gaelic Players Association to express their support for football Championship reform.

The GPA favour proposal B, which recommends a 'flipped' season and a league-based Championship structure, and this will be voted on at a Special Congress meeting on Saturday week.

Ulster GAA secretary and CEO Brian McEvoy is a high profile critic of the proposal, claiming that bringing the provincial competitions forward to spring time will devalue them.

Morgan doesn't agree and maintained that an Ulster title success in April, even if not linked to the Championship, would be just as significant as the one they captured this season.

"To me, you're still going to take it just as seriously," said Morgan.

"You still want to win. In Ulster, and I know everybody keeps coming back to Ulster and Ulster being the most competitive, but at the end of the day you're going to be playing your rivals. We won the McKenna Cup nearly every year because we wanted to beat our rivals and it's up to the other teams then to come to the table and take it as seriously as we will.

"I know with Feargal (Logan) and Brian (Dooher) in there, they'll be wanting to win it. We don't take the provincial championship for granted. This isn't a pre-season competition. This is a provincial championship that you get the Anglo Celt Cup for and a provincial medal."

Morgan insisted that, in Tyrone, a provincial medal will always carry huge weight.

"I've now won three of them and I hope that's not me finished with provincial championships, they mean a lot," he said.

The GPA revealed that 80 per cent of respondents to a survey on Championship structures favoured proposal B. Morgan is concerned that the views of players don't always translate into corresponding action at Congress.

"I have spoken openly in the past about decisions being made in Croke Park without the players getting a good say," he said.

"But this is not a GPA proposal, this is a GAA task force proposal that we are backing."

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