By Barry O’Donnell
A FINAL day shoot-out against Monaghan with everything still on the line was always the likely scenario given the condensed nature of the National League programme this season, Tyrone netminder Niall Morgan believes.
The Edendork man played an instrumental role in ensuring that his county go into the third group game with a League semi-final slot very much in their own hands after his heroics in nets against Armagh last Saturday night.
His vital penalty save to push aside Stefan Campbell’s spot kick in the 50th minute proved the defining moment in a pulsating encounter at the Athletic Grounds. Galvanised by his stop, Morgan’s outfield colleagues latched onto this momentum shifter and they finished strongly to run out deserved 2-15 to 2-10.
Another positive result against the Farney visitors in Omagh on Saturday night will catapult Tyrone into a semi-final the following weekend, though conversely if things don’t go to plan in the Monaghan tie, then the Red Hands will be thrust into a do-or die relegation tussle.
Given that four Ulster teams, familiar with each other’s personnel and style, were pitted against each other in their regional group section Morgan felt it was expected that each would take points off each other, to set up these crunch deciders at the weekend (Armagh host Donegal in the other key match).
“I think everybody knew that it was going to be that way. There was a case that every team could have won two games and still end up in a relegation battle. So it was predictable. Ulster is always tight.
“Everybody knows it’s the best championship about, so you put four of the teams into a league section and you know it’s going to be championship style football. None of us like getting beat any of us, and you fire the other five into the mix, and there’s a great entertaining championship coming our way.”
While naturally satisfied with his own notable contribution to the Orchard triumph, Morgan insisted that in a match of such fluctuating fortunes there was a litany of key incidents which contributed to the final outcome.
“I don’t know. The game had lots of turning points. They got the goal, they had a man off for a black card and that could have turned the game a lot.
“With a penalty, you’re picking your side, you’re standing up and it’s maybe a bit of research. I suppose you have a one in three chance. He’s going left, right or down the middle, so you’re taking your pick. Thankfully for me it paid off, and maybe it changed it a wee bit.”
See this week’s Ulster Herald for our full interview with Niall Morgan