Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Morgan makes point at both ends for Tyrone

Niall Morgan has made the goalkeeper position his own for Tyrone

There was a time that Tyrone manager Mickey Harte would rotate his goalkeepers through the National League programme.

Pascal McConnell and John Devine have been in his squads from the start of his reign a decade ago, but Niall Morgan of Edendork has made the position his own this season, playing all three league games so far.

On Sunday, Morgan's extensive skillset was key to the Tyrone win over All-Ireland champions Donegal, as he kicked three points.

His first '45' came in the second minute and he nailed it with plenty to spare, his second arriving half an hour later. Almost in the next passage of play he was called upon to stop a fiercely-struck Michael Murphy penalty.

After Aidan Cassidy pinched a loose pass in the Donegal defence and was immediately fouled shortly after Stephen O'Neill's goal, it was Morgan who ambled up to arrow it between the sticks at the Gortin Road end.

At the final whistle, there was no debate over who was the Man of the Match. After being presented with his award from the television crews, he glowed as he spoke to reporters.

"All I want to do is improve," he began. "I try to get out as often as I can to practice my free kicks. I try to get a few penalties took at me during the week as well. At the end of the day, that's the best chance that a forward has of scoring against you so you have to keep the head down and keep working."

Thanking Mickey Harte for the continued faith in him, the Edendork man, who plays outfield for his club, continued, "When I am playing in the number 1 jersey I am always going to be confident, so I am happy that he has shown his confidence in me and gave me a chance at it, I can't complain.

"As Packie [McConnell] said during the week there is always a battle for the keeper's jersey and that's what I love about it, the competition. There is never a chance that I'm definitely going to be playing the next day. That's why when you get your opportunity you have to make the most of it because Pascal and John are quality keepers."

Mickey Harte is always encouraging of his players after a game, but he had a particular word on Morgan when he said: "He's a very good player, very good at the job of netminding and obviously he has a good kick off the ground as well so that was worth 1-2 to us today, I would count that penalty save as a goal for him as well as the two kicks that he scored."

He continued, "They are very vital those kicks because if you are missing them, the effort you are putting in to create those opportunities doesn't do you any good but when you get points from them, that work is justified."

And while Morgan's contribution was garnished by some spectacular moments, he was also sound in his bread and butter duties. A long high ball in from Rory Kavanagh went all the way to the square on 59 minutes that Morgan secured and gripped tight to his chest.

In extra time, a quick free by Frank McGlynn offered Colm McFadden a clear sight on goal, but Morgan saved from point blank.

"The game lasts for seventy four minutes sometimes so you have to be on your toes at all times or you could get caught out near the end of the game," he recounted of that crucial stop. "I was just glad to get down to it and save it."

In the other goal, Paul Durcan couldn't prevent Stephen O'Neill from rounding him and although he held O'Neill up long enough that Neil McGee got his hands to the Tyrone captain's shot, it looped in over the line anyway.

"You don't give Stephen O'Neill that space, he will punish and it's something we will work on again coming up to the Championship," Durcan said, before turning his attention to that meeting on May 26th, stating, "We have a lot to do. Tyrone were impressive and they are doing well in the league.

"We have a marker now that we have to get above and look forward to playing them in Ballybofey."

With the venue of that game still very much in doubt – the Ulster Council will not be making a decision until the end of March whether it is staged in Clones or Ballybofey – Mickey Harte avoided stating his preference.

"It's not for me to make the decision," he said.

"We will play the game wherever it is fixed for and we know it will be quite a challenge no matter where it is."

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