Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan can hardly wait to get back into action now that 2022 is about to dawn.
The Edendork clubman proved a defensive pillar as the Red Hands soared to their fourth All-Ireland title in September and is understandably keen to see his side retain possession of the Sam Maguire Cup.
But the affable Morgan is in no doubt as to just where the seeds for his team’s epic Championship journey were laid.
He has an all too vivid recollection of the acerbic analysis that was conducted in the immediate aftermath of the team’s Allianz League hammering by Kerry in Killarney, yet it was to prove a panacea for the future.
“I will start with myself. To be honest, I don’t think I have ever had a great day in Killarney. I remember James O’Donoghue scoring a hat-trick there against me in the league and this year we conceded six goals. We maybe thought that we could take Kerry on man-to-man but that did not work out,” reflected Morgan.
“It was a bit of a disastrous day for us. I know from my own perspective when we got back to the hotel I threw my bag on the bed and I cried my eyes out. It might sound like an old cliché but we really did learn from that game.”
It was when team management duo Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher subsequently laid it firmly on the line that what proved to be invaluable pointers were absorbed from the soul-destroying 6-15 to 1-14 setback.
“They certainly told us a few home truths and pinpointed areas in which we needed to show an improvement,” recalled Morgan. “As a squad we were able to take stock and move on but that game really proved a wake-up call for us when all is said and done.”
Morgan certainly stamped his skill and personality on Tyrone’s All-Ireland title success but is quick to point out that this will guarantee the side nothing as they prepare to enter 2022.
“There will be other teams out there who will be very anxious to knock us off our pedestal but we for our part will be very keen to keep a firm grip on the Sam Maguire Cup. We had to work very hard to win it, particularly when you consider the problems that the Covid pandemic created, and we will not surrender it easily,” insisted Morgan.
Meanwhile, the Clann Eireann club in Lurgan is stepping up efforts to replace manager Tommy Coleman, who has called time on his role.
Coleman guided the club to their first Armagh Senior Championship title in 58 years before bringing the side into the semi-final of the Ulster Club Championship in which they fell to Derrygonnelly Harps at the semi-final stage by 3-11 to 1-11 after a disastrous start in which they conceded two early goals.
It was Coleman’s passion, commitment and tactical nous that helped to bring Clann Eireann out of the shadows, their County Championship final victory over Crossmaglen Rangers proving one of the biggest upsets on the Armagh club scene for some considerable time.
“I took the decision to step aside in order to give the club maximum time in which to put a new manager in place for the 2022 season. I have enjoyed my time in charge, particularly the past year because of the success that we obtained,” stated Coleman.
He played a big part in fashioning the careers of players and two in particular, Conor Turbitt and Tiernan Kelly, made a big impact when Kieran McGeeney brought them into his Armagh squad.
They were deployed as substitutes in the Ulster Championship semi-final against Monaghan last year and each of them landed a goal in the team’s courageous but ultimately unrewarding second-half performance after their listless first-half effort contributed largely to their 4-17 to 2-21 downfall.
Paul McKillen and Jim McKernan, who steered Antrim to the All-Ireland Intermediate Camogie title last year, will now take over the reins at Armagh while Elaine Dowds will fill the vacancy left by them in the Saffron County.
And Derry have withdrawn from the Conor McGurk hurling competition, which will get under way next week.
With Slaughtneil and Banagher involved in the Ulster Senior and Intermediate Club hurling finals respectively, Derry boss Dominic McKinley found himself with no other option but to withdraw from the competition entirely.