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Niall Morgan hopeful that Tyrone can draw Kerry response from Derry setback

By Pat Nolan

Niall Morgan's weekend hasn’t exactly panned out as he might have expected.

He ought to have been tuning himself in for Tyrone’s Ulster semi-final against Monaghan tomorrow but Derry shredded that script in Omagh a fortnight ago and so, rather than gathering last night for a final run-through, they trained on Thursday night and will get together again today ahead of relaunching their season in the qualifiers next month.

It meant that the All Star goalkeeper could attend last night’s Gaelic Writers’ Association dinner at the Iveagh Garden Hotel in Dublin in conjunction with Wilson Hartnell, where he picked up another award as the 2021 Football Personality of the Year, a nod to his excellence on the field but also his effusiveness off it.

“We did a wee bit of training on it at the start of the year in terms of what to say and what not to say,” said Morgan of their media engagement. “You can be open and honest without being silly and saying something stupid.”

And while Morgan says that “we do know who we can trust and we stick to those journalists”, the observations of some members of the fourth estate add fuel to their fire as they look to defend their All-Ireland title having already relinquished supremacy in Ulster.

“I know the narrative among some journalists last year was that we won by fluke. We don't believe that. Personally I don't believe in luck at all, I believe you get what you deserve and you get what you work for.

“Going back to Derry, they worked hard and deserved their win and there was no luck involved and we would say the same about last year. That we worked hard and we got the rewards for what we done.

“We're just going to have to work a bit harder in terms of our training and in terms of our application and what we're doing skills-wise.

“We need to return a wee bit to the basics and get them sorted because our kick-passing and fist-passing and shot-selection has been what's letting us down this year. If you return to looking after that side of things you're going to reap the rewards of it.”

Derry finished 11 points clear of Tyrone in the end, their biggest beating since Kerry had 16 to spare in last year’s League semi-final.

The Kerry result proved to be a turning point in their season. Can they harvest a similar outcome from this latest setback?

“Last year we had frank discussions after the Kerry game about what our aims were for the year,” Morgan recalls. “There's no point going out and training if you're just going for the sake of it.

“We got together and worked out where we wanted to go next and we've done the same after the Derry game.

“It might not just work the same way because we had a bit of a surprise factor coming off that loss against Kerry last year whereas now we still have the target on our back and everyone wants to take us out because we're reigning champions.

“I know we're out of Ulster now, Derry have that accolade going into their semi-final this weekend. Whoever comes up against us in the All-Ireland series will be looking to do the same.”

And with an afternoon to spare, somewhat unexpectedly, Morgan will park himself in front of the TV tomorrow to take in the action from the Athletic Grounds.

“I am looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to seeing how Derry set up against Monaghan because they're definitely a different team to us.

“I'm looking forward to seeing have Monaghan learned anything from the way Derry played against us as well. It's going to be interesting.

“It's a wee bit of a tighter pitch too in the Athletic Grounds. I think it's tighter anyway. It mightn't be in the measurements but it always feels tighter because it's more closed in. So it'll be an interesting match and the atmosphere will be great as well.

“You know what, as much as you don't like losing it's great to be part of a competitive Championship and it only makes us better being a part of it rather than getting a handy route through.”

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