GAA Football

We have to prove ourselves again... Hunger is back in Tyrone after write-off season says Niall Morgan

11/9/2021 Tyrones goalkeeper Niall Morgan Picture Seamus Loughran.
Andy Watters

TYRONE mean to prove themselves all over again and build from “rock bottom” after a 2022 season that was a virtual write-off, says Niall Morgan.

The Red Hands went into their last campaign as All-Ireland champions but, although they did retain their Division One status, they struggled to raise a gallop in the Championship. Derry ended their reign as Ulster's top dogs and losing to Armagh in the first round of the Qualifiers meant the 2022 champions' season was over by the first week of June.

Seven months' since their last competitive game, experienced goalkeeper Morgan says Tyrone are determined to prove their worth once again. He says the players have gone back to basics in preparation for next season which is just a week away.

“We all have the attitude that we need to prove ourselves again,” said Edendork clubman Morgan.

“Last year we probably felt that we had proved ourselves. You don't say it out loud and you don't mean for it to happen but it is in the sub-conscious a wee bit that you have got over that hurdle, you've won an All-Ireland.

“So we're back to square-one now – we really are starting from rock-bottom. Yes, we stayed up in Division One last year but other than that there weren't many positives to take out of last season.

“There are men in the squad now who don't have an All-Ireland medal and they've got something to prove.”

Conor McKenna has returned to Aussie Rules and Rory Brennan has retired from the inter-county game and Tyrone managers Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher have brought in a number of new players including Ryan and Dalaigh Jones from Dungannon Thomas Clarke's, Nathan McCarron (Dromore), Eoin Corry and Aidan Clarke (Omagh) and Conor Cush (Donaghmore).

Those players and Michael McNeill, Ruairi Canavan and Niall Devlin (who joined the squad late last season after playing for the Tyrone U20 team) will bring a new drive to the Red Hand panel as they look to force their way into the starting line-up.

Morgan says the squad have been concentrating on the skills and rebuilding the intensity that drove them to success in 2021.

“It's back to hard work and the basics,” he said.

“We're focussing on our handling and fist-passing, kick-passing, carrying the ball well, trying to be more efficient in our tackling… If you look back to the games last year, we didn't become a bad team over-night, we just weren't as efficient as we were the year before.

“The year before we didn't need as many shots to score, we were turning teams over quicker… Last year we weren't working hard enough during games - we felt that way because we weren't winning.

“This year it's back to basics, it's back to trying to get turnovers quicker and being more structurally sound. It doesn't mean that it (improvement) is going to happen immediately but we have to work on those sort of things and trying to put them right.”

Despite the disappointment of their last campaign, the Tyrone squad will feel that all things are possible in 2023 and their season begins when Fermanagh visit Omagh for their Dr McKenna Cup Section B opener next Wednesday night.

“Nobody enjoys pre-season,” said Morgan with a chuckle.

“Let's call a spade-a-spade, it's the time of year when you're training and the matches always seem far away. No matter what sort of game you're playing, it's always exciting to get out on the pitch and Tyrone people always support us. We're very fortunate in our county that, no matter who we play or how we're doing, if the gates are open there'll be a crowd there.”

GAA Football