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Morgan's battle against odds bears fruit in style

By John Campbell

This time last year playing at Croke Park represented nothing more than a fanciful dream for Armagh defender James Morgan.

A troublesome wrist injury was finally scrutinised in depth by a top Dublin surgeon and the 24-year-old Crossmaglen Rangers man was informed that he could be out of football for 12 months.

It was a shattering blow for Morgan who, having attained success at club level with Rangers, had been anxious to sample glory with Armagh.

It was following a second operation to his wrist that Morgan resigned himself to a period of rest and recuperation but with a silent vow that he would do everything to resurrect his playing career as soon as possible.

And that's exactly what this energetic schoolteacher did. No sacrifice was too great, no exercise too demanding as he adhered to a punishing rehabilitation schedule that finally saw him achieve his goal - donning the Armagh jersey sooner than anyone, himself included, had expected.

And when he steps out at Croke Park today, Morgan is hoping to play his part in taking the Orchard county into the last four of the All-Ireland series for the first time since 2003.

"I knew when I got the injury in an accidental collision in training back in February last year that it was bad," reflects Morgan.

"I was obviously disappointed to hear the prognosis but the surgeon was very helpful and I got great encouragement in my recovery. It has been a dream for me to have won my place back in the Armagh side and to be going in against Tyrone in such an important match at Croke Park.

"After all, that's where every player wants to be playing at this time of the year, isn't it?"

Morgan proved a defensive tower in Armagh's surprise win over Kildare, his strong tackling and forceful runs from deep forcing the opposition onto the back foot.

Today, though, Morgan will face a much bigger test against a supremely fit, well-drilled Tyrone side that, having chalked up Championship wins over Derry, Donegal and Down, will be keen to take things to the next level.

What's more, they will take the field at Headquarters suitably refreshed after a three-week spell in which their total focus has been on today's mission while Armagh in contrast have been constantly on the road fulfilling qualifier engagements.

"We have longed to get back to Croke Park and we like to think that the momentum we have built up over recent weeks will stand to us," says Morgan.

Tyrone, though, will pose a major test for Kieran McGeeney's men who are without the lively Andrew Murnin in their attack.

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