GAA Football

It was always going to come down to the wire: Niall Morgan

Armagh's Rory Grugan and Tyrone's Niall Morgan (right) in action during last weekend's NFL clash
Francis Mooney

IT was always going to come down to this – Niall Morgan’s take on a decisive final round of group games in NFL Division One North.

All four teams have something to play for, and none are certain to avoid the relegation play-offs.

The action and Healy Park and the Athletic Grounds is guaranteed to be fast and furious this weekend as Ulster’s finest slug it out.

A victory for Tyrone over Monaghan will send them through to the semi-finals, but the Farney, despite having failed to win either of their two games to date, can still make it to the knock-outs stages of the title race.

“I think everybody knew that it was going to be that way,” said the Red Hand goalkeeper.

“There was a case that every team could have won two games and still end up in a relegation battle.

“So it was predictable. Ulster is always tight.

“Everybody knows it’s the best Championship about, so you put four of the teams into a League section and you know it’s going to be Championship style football.

“None of us like getting beat by any of us, and you fire the other five into the mix, and there’s a great entertaining Championship coming our way.”

Nothing less than full points from their visit to Omagh will keep Monaghan out of the relegations scrap, but their gutsy draw with Donegal at Ballybofey last weekend has raised spirits in Seamus McEnaney’s camp.

“We know more than anybody how hard it is to go to Ballybofey.

“Monaghan aren’t a bad team, and last week’s result (defeat to Armagh) probably didn’t reflect how things are.

“I know it was a great performance by Armagh and they did well to get the victory, but Monaghan were always going to bounce back.”

This weekend’s clash with Monaghan will see Ulster’s top two goalkeepers go head to head, Morgan’s friendship with Rory Beggan set to be paused for 70-odd minutes.

“Me and Rory get on very well, we’re both play the same position and we be chatting right and often, bouncing ideas off each other, but not giving away any secrets obviously.

“We keep each other right, and he’s a great lad, and a brilliant player too. He’s somebody that we’re going to have to watch closely next week.”

The Tyrone ‘keeper is feeling the energy from the freshness brought by new bosses Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher after 18 years with Mickey Harte at the help.

But the Red Hands are on a fast learning curve as a result of time lost to lockdown.

“The two men that have come in, and even the backroom team, Joe, Pete and Collie, it has just refreshed everything.

“We were maybe crying out for it a wee bit in the last couple of years, and it has come at a good time maybe, particularly for me.

“I’m coming 30 in July, so there mightn’t be as many yeas left in me as I would like.

“We had only a four week lead-in, and we were very stringent in the rules.

“To have only four weeks to try to work on things, it was obviously going to be very hard.

“It’s going to be difficult for us. Monaghan have changed their backroom team as well, so it’s going to be difficult for them as well to get a system set up.”

The Edendork clubman revealed that diligent research paid off as he faced up to Stefan Campbell’s second half penalty at the Athletic Grounds last Saturday.

His hunch was correct as he dived to his right to keep out the Armagh skipper’s spot kick.

“With a penalty, you’re picking your side, you’re standing up and it’s maybe a bit of research.

“In that exact same goal, he scored one against me in the McKenna Cup, I think it was last year.

“He put one the same way against Rory Beggan last week, so you’re hoping that he doesn’t change his mind.

“I suppose you have a one in three chance. He’s going left, right or down the middle, so you’re taking your pick.

“Thankfully for me it paid off, and maybe it changed it a wee bit.

“That’s my job at the end of the day. They scored two goals, and I pride myself in keeping goals out, so whenever they have scored two already, you don’t want the third one.

“So thankfully I went the right way and kept it out.”

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