Monday 19 March 2018

You can't beat buzz of GAA, reveals Tyrone's soccer import Morgan after rapid rise to No 1

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

FOR last year's Allianz League Division 2 campaign, Mickey Harte opted to rotate the three goalkeepers he retained in his squad for the eight matches Tyrone played.

Harte has always had a propensity to take a good look at his options for the No 1 jersey, so Pascal McConnell played against Kildare, Westmeath and Monaghan, Jonathan Curran stepped in against Derry, Galway and Kildare and John Devine started against Meath and Louth.

Fast-forward 12 months, though, and Harte has changed policy completely. The unheralded Niall Morgan (pictured left) has played all three Division 1 games to date, and the dividends have been rich.

Morgan's rise has been meteoric and last Sunday he brought his tally for the campaign so far to seven points from frees and '45s', on top of a magnificent penalty save from Michael Murphy just before half-time and another crucial stop late in the game from Colm McFadden.

McConnell and Devine, still part of the squad, have had to sit and bide their time as a young man with little underage inter-county pedigree as a GAA goalkeeper has supplanted them in Harte's thinking.

Morgan established himself as first choice with Dungannon Swifts in the Irish League last season – which put him in the shop window for a move to England – but the lure of playing with Tyrone in front of big crowds was too powerful to resist when Harte came calling.

It's a bit of a gamble for Harte to place so much early-season faith in a player who doesn't play in goal regularly for his club, Edendork.

"I play midfield and half-forward for the club. I got my goalkeeping through the soccer – there's no doubt about that – but I've started taking free-kicks for the club out the field, so I suppose that has also helped me to get this far," he said.

After picking up the man of the match award in Omagh, Morgan acknowledged that the buzz of Tyrone football persuaded him to throw his lot in with Harte.

"Well, if you look around you... I'm not sure what the exact number of crowd was (9,676) but it's absolutely superb. I've never played in front of a crowd like this in my life," he said.

"When you start playing Gaelic football from a young age, your aim is to play for your county. When that chance came, I couldn't turn it down."

Leaving Dungannon was a wrench, however. "It was a massive decision. I have never played for any other club. It was heart-breaking in a way, but, at the minute, I feel I made the right decision."

Morgan is a laid-back character and his approach to the two frees and the '45' he stroked over against Donegal reflected that.

"There are plenty of other things to get worried about other than football. I find football is a time for fun," he said.

"If you have worries in your life, you can put them all aside as you are walking over the white line. Football, it's a game at the end of the day."

Morgan said he had watched Murphy hit a penalty in the same direction in the Sigerson Cup recently and stored it in his memory.

Irish Independent

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