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Rival keepers preparing to play leading roles

By John Campbell

There will be a shoot-out with a difference when Tyrone confront Monaghan in Sunday's Ulster senior football Championship semi-final at Clones.

Normally a contest to put most points on the scoreboard revolves around marquee forwards but on this occasion the respective goalkeepers will be the players very much under the spotlight.

Niall Morgan has already underlined his value to Tyrone in the current competition by landing their first point in the drawn game against Down before scoring on three occasions in their replay victory, all his four points coming from long-range frees.

And it was his save from an Aidan Carr penalty in the opening minute of the replay that provided the spur for Tyrone eventually come out on top by 3-11 to 0-12.

However, he was shown a black card in the 39th minute of the drawn contest and this served to trim his scoring input in the game.

Meanwhile, Rory Beggan has been a consistent scorer for Monaghan over the past year as well as proving equally adept at preventing scores.

Indeed, Beggan hoisted over an important point from a '45' when Monaghan clinched the Division Two league title by beating Donegal at Croke Park in April and his marksmanship could prove of even greater importance to Monaghan on Sunday as leading forward Conor McManus will not start the game because of injury.

"Obviously it's always a challenge but I have grown into the role of free-taker. The Ulster Championship is always much more intense and scores are usually harder to come by so you can't afford to miss chances. There is always pressure but you have to hold your nerve," maintains Scotstown clubman Beggan.

Former Dungannon Swifts player Morgan is regarded as Ulster's top goalkeeper and is prized as much for his scoring ability by Tyrone boss Mickey Harte as he is for his shot-stopping prowess.

"When you have someone who can put over points from an incredible range with apparent ease then it is a big bonus. Niall has got some important points in the recent past and hopefully he will get more on Sunday," says Harte.

It's Dublin custodian Stephen Cluxton who is credited with having brought the art of goalkeeping to a new level and both Morgan and Beggan have certainly been among his most fervent disciples.

The duo are now preparing to take front-stage roles in what Morgan believes is "a massive game".

"Some people tend to forget that Monaghan are the reigning Ulster Champions and as such deserve the highest respect.

"We are definitely not going to underestimate the task we have to face," insists Morgan.

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