James Morgan determined to put injury problems behind him and force his way back into Crossmaglen side after Clontribret clash

AIB Ulster Senior Football Club Championship Semi Final between Kilcoo v Crossmaglen at Pairc Estler.15/11/2015.Kilcoo Jerome  Johnston  Crossmaglen James Morgan.Pic Philip Walsh.
AIB Ulster Senior Football Club Championship Semi Final between Kilcoo v Crossmaglen at Pairc Estler.15/11/2015.Kilcoo Jerome Johnston Crossmaglen James Morgan.Pic Philip Walsh.

INJURED James Morgan will miss Saturday’s Ulster quarter-final against Clontibret but he hopes to be back in black and amber for the semi-final – should Crossmaglen get that far.

Morgan missed the entire Armagh Championship which was frustrating but, then again, he is used to it by now because injuries have been a constant throughout Morgan’s club career. The first one, a broken collarbone, came on his senior debut for Cross.

“I can’t remember how it happened,” says Morgan, now 27, with a laugh when someone guesses that the break was the result of one of his trademark tackles.

“I think I was taking a point and somebody hit me late!”

His current injury dates back to June. Two days after Armagh’s Ulster Championship replay loss to Cavan, Morgan went over on his ankle at training. It seemed innocuous enough but a scan showed that ligaments had been ruptured. He had surgery 16 weeks ago and is confident there will be no long-term effects.

“I’m hoping that, if we get over Clontibret, I’ll be available to try and earn a place for the next day,” he said.

“There is still a lot of competition within our squad but if I get back training it’ll be fantastic and any game-time after that will be a bonus.

“It has been a long season of injuries for me and I’m ready to put that behind me. I’ve had many injuries but I’ve decided this is my last one, this is my last injury. I’m ready for a bit of luck, maybe I need to go to Mass a bit more!”

When fit Morgan - a veteran of some hammer-and-tongs man-marking duels in Ulster over the years - is a certain starter but Tony Kernan, Kyle Carragher and Johnny Hanratty are among the names currently on a star-studded bench. Morgan will have to work hard to get back into this Crossmaglen side and he knows it.

“It’s fiercely competitive for a club side but the impact of players off the bench is what got us over the line on many occasions,” he said.

“That would be my first port of call – if I can get healthy enough to come on and do a job and help the team succeed that’s what I’ll do. First and foremost, I’m just going to try and get myself healthy enough to be available in some way.”

Kieran Donnelly’s side completed back-to-back Orchard county titles when they produced a stunning comeback to beat Ballymacnab a fortnight ago. Cross were trailing by five points before they registered a match-winning 1-9 in a devastating 10-minute spell. Morgan says they intend to start Saturday’s game against Clontibret “like we finished the last one”.

“The difference was hard work, we just worked a lot harder (in the second half against Ballymacnab) and we’re going to try and do that this Saturday, we’ll try and hit the ground with hard work and just basic, simple football,” he said.

“In the first half we didn’t listen to what we were instructed and we were fortunate that, when half-time did come around, we weren’t trailing by as much as we could have been. It could have been worse and when we got in at half-time it was an opportunity to communicate and get a few different things ironed out.

“We hit the reset button and when we came out in the second half we just stuck more to our gameplan.

“Clontibret have fantastic quality throughout the field so we don’t want to put ourselves in a negative position like we did against Ballymacnab.”

Of course the Clontibret manager – John McEntee – is a man Morgan knows very well. McEntee, an All-Ireland winner with club and county, is a former Crossmaglen team-mate and manager.

“I played with John when I first came onto the Cross senior team,” said Morgan.

“He managed us for our last Ulster Championship and now he’s standing in the way of the next one.

“It just adds an extra bit of excitement and it’s another talking-point for neutrals but it won’t have an overall effect on the game really.

“The players are the ones who are going to take the field and it’s up to them to battle it out.”