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Wednesday 1 February 2023 Dublin: 8°C
INPHO/Morgan Treacy Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan.
# Influences
Cluxton and Craig Gordon credited as inspirations for new Tyrone goalkeeper
The current Dublin netminder and former Scotland number one have helped influence Tyrone’s Niall Morgan.

IT’S BEEN AN unlikely rise to prominence and Tyrone’s new goalkeeper Niall Morgan credits an unlikely figure for it.

Morgan has secured the number one jersey with Mickey Harte’s side this spring in his debut inter-county senior campaign.

But his sporting endeavors over the last couple of years were wrapped up in soccer as he guarded the goal for Dungannon Swifts in the Irish League.

And when it came to dabbling in Gaelic football at club level for Edendork, Morgan was more recognized as an outfield player.

Yet now he has managed to become the net minder for the Tyrone senior side and is also entrusted with converting placed balls in the attacking domain.

How did this happen? The 21 year-old St Mary’s Belfast student points towards his opposite number, Dublin’s Stephen Cluxton, in next Sunday’s Allianz Division 1 FL final.

“Cluxton is the king of the ‘keepers. He has completely revolutionised it for us. Fifteen years ago, you wouldn’t have heard of a goalkeeper coming up to kick a free whereas now it seems to be a thing a lot of counties are looking for.

“I have been lucky that he did come along while I was playing. I would say that if Stephen hadn’t been hitting frees for Dublin, I don’t think I would be playing Gaelic football at county level. I’d still be preparing for the last game of the League for Dungannon Swifts at the minute.

“I would see myself more as an outfielder at club level and it was probably my free-kick taking ability that got me promoted towards the county scene. I have him to blame that I’m stuck in goals for the rest of my career. But I have him to thank that I got to play at inter-county level.”

Tyrone’s Niall Morgan and Dublin’s Ger Brennan
Pic: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

At a young age Morgan was a GAA fan but soccer began to consume his interests as he got older.

“When you get to 17 or 18, you start to become a bit more lazy and lie on the coach and say ‘I’ll watch it (GAA) on the TV and turn on the soccer after.’ I suppose Peter Schmeichel was a goalkeeping hero of mine, he will always be counted as one of the greats.

“But recently, Craig Gordon, who played for Sunderland. I always looked up to him. Now he’s playing for Dumbarton because of injury. Things haven’t gone so well for him so that’ just sort of shows that it can be gone so quick.”

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Morgan is well placed to judge the different responsibilities as a goalkeeper between the two sports.

“With soccer, when you’re getting paid, there’s a bit more pressure. People are paying you for your performance, and if you weren’t performing, they were wondering why. In terms of actual playing, whenever you catch the ball in Gaelic, you’re practically mauled. In soccer you can roll about the ground for five or six seconds before you do anything with it.

“So there’s a wee bit more pressure in Gaelic, to get rid of the ball as soon as you can. The basics are similar, to stop the ball from going past you, but when you’re kicking from the hand you have to be set differently from when you’re kicking from the ground.

“And in soccer there is more chance they’ll give you the eyes, while in Gaelic there’s more of a chance they’ll sell it to you.”

Morgan’s background may have been in soccer but his focus is now firmly on Gaelic football.

Mickey maybe sees this as the next transition. I can’t speak highly enough of Pascal (McConnell) and John (Devine) as well. They were two gentlemen and you can’t argue with the amount of chances I’ve been given. They (Dungannon Swifts) have left it so that if I want to come back I can come back. But Tyrone is my future.”

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