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Player Watch: Rory Beggan's impact as a forward in dramatic Ulster semi-final comeback

Scotstown’s All-Star goalkeeper has taken the position to new heights this season.

2018 HAS BEEN an unforgettable year for Rory Beggan.

Rory Beggan 12/8/2018 Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The Monaghan netminder picked up his first All-Star earlier this month on the back of his finest campaign in the Farney colours.

Beggan was solid between the posts, showed off his arsenal of pin-point kick-outs during the summer, while also posting 0-18 from dead balls across nine championship games on Monaghan’s run to the All-Ireland semi-final.

In October, he clipped over a brace of frees as Scotstown lifted their fourth Monaghan SFC title in succession and in the recent Ulster club quarter-final scored his first ever point from play in championship football against Burren. 

In yesterday’s come-from-behind semi-final win over Derry champions Coleraine, the 26-year-old was typically accurate from placed balls and also had a major impact from open play. 

Trailing Coleraine by three points in the final few minutes, Scotstown sent the 6’5″ powerhouse up into the opposition half as a 15th outfield player. It worked a charm.

57 mins - Beggan slots over his second free of the afternoon. Coleraine 2-10 Scotstown 1-11

62 mins - Beggan joins the Scotstown attack. Kieran Hughes picks out the unmarked keeper about 35m out from the Coleraine goals.

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Beggan fist passes into the path of full-back Ryan O’Toole for a vital score that reduces the gap to two. Coleraine 2-10 Scotstown 1-12

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63 mins - Beggan gets himself well ahead of the ball as Conor McCarthy assesses his options on the 45. 

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The play is switched to the right flank and Beggan continues his run into full-forward, forcing a Coleraine defender to stick with him.

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Corner-back Damien McArdle is afforded enough time and space to take a solo, look up and drill over the leveller from the outside his boot. Coleraine 2-10 Scotstown 1-13

66 mins – Scotstown have scored three on the bounce but this time Beggan stays at home with extra-time looming. McCarthy passes to Donal Morgan, who is fouled on the 45m line. 

Beggan trots upfield and slots over his third score of the afternoon to seal Scotstown’s progression. Coleraine 2-10 Scotstown 1-14

Beggan’s role in O’Toole’s 62nd-minute score was particularly impressive. A shot was there for him to take on but instead he chose the correct option and left O’Toole with an easier shot at the posts. 

Beggan clearly learned from his late mishap in the All-Ireland semi-final against Tyrone, when he took on an ambitious strike from 60m in the final 10 seconds, instead of playing it into Hughes at full-forward.

Rory Beggan dejected after the game Rory Beggan was despondant after he fluffed a late chance against Tyrone in the All-Ireland semi-final. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Interestingly, it was the second game in-a-row that Coleraine faced a fly-keeper. When Cavan champions Castlerahan were reduced to 14 men in their Ulster quarter-final, they sent goalkeeper Jamie Leahy onto the half-back line to even up the numbers when they had possession.

It’s a brave decision to move a keeper outfield, but when sides have ball-playing netminders like Beggan or Laois’s Graham Brody it makes sense to utilise them in this way. 

Defenders are not accustomed to dealing with goalkeepers in possession and often times teams will allow them solo upfield without laying a glove on them.

Indeed, Beggan’s only other score from play – in a 2017 league game against Clontibret – arrived when he was allowed to carry the ball into the opposition half and shoot unimpeded.

The Australians have used their goalkeeper as a spare defender in both the 2015 and 2017 International Rules series and it could be a tactic that will become more common as Gaelic football continues to evolve.

Wexford U20s keeper Ivan Meegan scored a point from play in the Leinster championship against Dublin during the summer, while Mayo stopper Matthew Flanagan came outfield to set-up a goal and a point in the closing stages of their late Connacht JFC preliminary round victory over Roscommon in May. 

Rory Beggan Rory Beggan gets involved in open play against Kildare in Croke Park. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Beggan predicted goalkeepers will become more involved in outfield play at an AIB media event last month, declaring: “Goalkeepers can play football too. A lot of intercounty goalkeepers play outfield for their clubs. It would not be any new territory for them to go up and kick a point.

“I think there’s a lot more goalkeepers doing it at club level. Too many keepers are doing it but there is obviously a line that you don’t cross in terms of goalkeeping. Your main job is to protect the goal. 

“I think you’re going to see in the next year or two that some goalkeepers are going to start scoring,” he continued. “I think it is inevitable but I think it’s adventurous. I enjoyed watching Graham Brody this year. I think he single-handedly brought them back into the game against Wexford. 

“When he did it they stuck him in at corner forward at one stage but if teams want to use it it’s an option. Keepers are never marked so give them the ball.”

The goalkeeping position continues to evolve and Beggan is leading the charge.

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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