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'I didn't know the extent of it' - Morgan hails club-mate Kilpatrick's bravery

Tyrone All-Ireland winner Conn Kilpatrick recently opened up about his gambling addiction.

Tyrone’s Conn Kilpatrick celebrates with the Sam Maguire.
Tyrone’s Conn Kilpatrick celebrates with the Sam Maguire.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

NIALL MORGAN HAS praised Tyrone and Edendork team-mate Conn Kilpatrick for opening up about his struggles with gambling addiction.

In his first year as a starter with Tyrone, Kilpatrick played a major role at midfield as they ended a 13-year wait without the All-Ireland title.

Last week he bravely told his story about the depths of his addiction and how his family and friends helped set him on the path to recovery. 

“I think it shows the human side of him too,” says Morgan. “People all too often see county players, that we’re there for entertainment nearly, that we don’t have lives outside of actually playing county football.

“For him to put himself in that vulnerable position of almost playing the bad guy, I suppose, and expressing what he has been through and being able to turn his life to the extent where it helped him on the pitch to become an All-Ireland winner, I think that’s only going to reap serious positive rewards in the future for him and for people in a similar position.”

Morgan was aware Kilpatrick had encountered difficulties but didn’t know the full extent of things. 

“I knew the issue was there the first time around. I knew he had got help, I knew that it had been fixed. Then I heard the relapse had happened. I don’t like being intrusive, I made sure that everything was okay and stuff like that.

“But I didn’t know the extent of it. I think it was a massively brave thing to do. He put himself in a very vulnerable position.

“I know that the GPA did provide him help in that, and his family and friends and the club were all behind him as well. I’m proud, not only of him on the football pitch but for what he’s done because he’ll never know the extent of how many people he has helped, both now and going into the future.”

gpa-media-conference-of-football-championship-structure Niall Morgan speaking at a GPA Media Conference at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Santry. Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

Speaking at the GPA media event where they backed Proposal B ahead of Special Congress, Morgan admitted it took him a bit of time for him to come around to the idea that it is the way forward for the football championship. 

The Tyrone netminder was part of the GPA delegation that spoke in favour of the proposed structure which promises to radically overhaul the All-Ireland SFC from next season. 

Morgan says he “wasn’t educated enough” initially and was under the impression “that you played in your league and the top five teams in the (Division 1) league went through.”

At a GPA meeting, Clare’s Podge Collins helped change his mind explaining, ‘Niall, this is seven championship games and if you don’t finish in the top five… it’s up to you to be there.’

Morgan continues, “So whenever he sort of put it across that this is the championship…that, for me, swung it. Everybody wants to play championship games and that’s the truth of it and like getting seven of them in games that really, really matter.

“Everybody’s going to have to put out full teams. We played Dublin in the past, playing 11 or 12 of their main team and they’re giving other boys a run out. This gives us the opportunity to really pit ourselves against the best every week.”

Recent opposite to Proposal B in the national media includes criticism that only ’10 teams qualify for the championship’, while another suggested going back to the drawing board to come up with the perfect solution next year. 

With the opportunity to tweak the format after the first year, the GAA might be better served in creating two 16-team divisions, split into two groups of eight to address the imbalance of three top flight sides failing to advance to the knock-out stages. 

“I think the key to it all is that we give this a chance and then we can decide how to work it,” reasons Morgan.

“It might open up that only the top four in Division 1 get their automatic quarter-finals and then there’s more opportunity for preliminary rounds but I think the biggest thing is they can’t be afraid of the change in general and we give it a go.

“Then we work from there because, at the minute, the system is broken, it’s not working. We need to try something different and this is different and if it doesn’t work, you can always go back.

“This doesn’t have to be a permanent change. The format of it now is not permanent, it’s a working model. (It’s like) the analogy of building a house, you put in strong foundations and you build your house and if you need to tweak something, if you need to change something you can change it.

“You can add on the conservatory if you want or a garage to the side. We can’t be stuck in thinking, ‘Oh this doesn’t work because one thing…’ We can tweak that thing. We can make changes as we go.

“The same way they added in the back door and the same way they tried the Super 8s, things can change and evolve as years go by and as needed.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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