GAA Football

Tyrone's Niall Morgan urges GAA Congress to vote green

Francis Mooney

NIALL Morgan has urged GAA Congress to level the playing field by adopting the Green proposal for changes to the Football Championship next weekend.

A round robin format would remove the obvious advantages enjoyed by Dublin and Kerry, who coast through to the All-Ireland knock-out stages virtually unopposed year after year.

Ulster teams, on the other hand, must battle through a fiercely competitive provincial Championship to remain on course.

Tyrone’s All-Star goalkeeper, a member of the GPA’s national executive committee, believes change is necessary, and that a departure from the traditional format is the way forward.

Option B, favoured by the players’ body, would see the League and Championship linked, feeding into round robin groups.

“I think it could re-ignite the Championship,” said Morgan.

“In the interest of fairness, it will give everybody a chance to start from an equal footing whenever we get to the knock-out stages of the All-Ireland. It’s about a level playing field for all.

“As it stands, Dublin and Kerry basically get a straight route through.

“Even allowing for the back door, in Ulster, there’s a very tough Championship to get through before you can even get to face one of those teams.

“It’s a serious advantage whenever you don’t have to play your best players the whole way through. You can rest players and get them right for the big games.

“The straight knock-out format did ignite it a bit over the last couple of years.

“I know we caught Kerry on the hop last year, but they don’t get caught too often.

“We all know that Ulster is the most competitive Championship. If we’re looking to win our province, which we do want to, we have to peak during it, before we even get through to the All-Ireland stage.

“Other teams can peak at different stages, so surely it’s an advantage to peak at the right time.”

Speaking as he renewed his role as ambassador for Precision Goalkeeping Gloves, Morgan predicted an even more cut-throat Ulster series this year as standards rise, with Armagh and Derry making major strides in their burgeoning challenges to the established powers.

“Obviously there’s been ourselves, Donegal and Monaghan there for a long time, but now Armagh and Derry are coming very strong with challenges, and Cavan won the provincial title in 2020.

“There’s so signs that any of those counties are going to let up, so it’s only going to get stronger.

“You can ask, is Munster going to get any stronger? Yes, Cork are now in Division Two, but will they really be able to hold a candle to Kerry?

“The same in Leinster, where Kildare are coming, but are they really going to challenge Dublin all the way?

“I think whenever we get to the round robin stage, it will allow teams to really peak for that time of the year.

“Whenever there’s so much at stake, you want it to be a fair starting ground for everyone.”

Meanwhile, Morgan admits the Re Hands will have to exceed expectations of last season if they have designs on retaining the All-Ireland in 2022.

No Tyrone has ever retained the Sam Maguire Cup, with the Edendork clubman anticipating at least half a dozen contenders chasing them down this season.

“It’s not going to be easy to retain it, but that’s our aim. It’s always our aim to win as much as we can, and this year will be no different for us.

“You always aim to perform at the highest level, but now we’re being chased by the opposition, we’re the team that everybody wants to beat, and sometimes it’s difficult to hold the performance so high whenever the opposition is out to get to you.

“We caught Kerry on the hop last year, when everybody was expecting them to win that game.

“We caught them off guard, and teams will be trying to do the same with us.

“The back door is back this year, but it is going to be difficult, because the Qualifiers will all be Division One and Two teams only.

“That’s definitely the aim. That’s’ what we talked about at the start of the year, that we’ll work to try and retain it, work to try and prove that it wasn’t a fluke.

“That’s what seems to be the common call, that we won an All-Ireland by fluke.

“Yes, things did go our way at the right times, and we got a big let-off from the GAA in terms of allowing us back into the competition.

“That was a tough call for us during the Covid times, and we’re not going to have that this year.

“We’re going to go out and try our best, but there’s no guarantee that our best will be good enough for what’s required.”

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