By Niall Gartland
THERE are many theories churning around as to where it all went pear-shaped for Tyrone this season, but goalkeeper Niall Morgan’s suggestion that the team lacked the trademark swagger as All-Ireland champions is one of the more interesting takes on the matter.
Hopes were high heading into the season that Tyrone could mount a credible defence of their All-Ireland, and even retain the title for the first time in their history, but the team never really kicked into gear and bowed out with a first-round qualifier defeat to Armagh less than a fortnight ago.
2021 All-Star winner Niall Morgan feels that they never really managed to give off the impression that as defending champions, they weren’t going to go down without one hell of a fight.
“We have a man in with us from time-to-time called Stephen Maguire who does a bit of work with Sport Ireland. One of the things he talked to us about was basically owning the pitch in terms of your persona.
“When he was with Team GB, he said their big thing was owning the warm-up area and coming in with a swagger that says ‘we’re going to win’.
“He said it was visible to us, as an outsider coming in, that we didn’t have that visual impression that we were winners who expected to go out on win.
“Any time we played Dublin as All-Ireland winners, or even playing Donegal or Monaghan when they were Ulster Champions, you always felt ‘jeez they aren’t going to let go off this handily’ whereas I think everyone out there almost expected us to lose every game we played.
“I suppose that came from the aura we were giving off and if we’d gone out and bossed games, and gave off the vibe that we weren’t going to be defeated, things could’ve worked out differently for us.”
The prevailing stereotype is that Tyrone fare better when they’ve something to prove but Morgan says motivation wasn’t an issue within the camp this season.
“I didn’t find it any harder to get up for games. We do seem to play better when our backs are against the wall or when we have that chip on our shoulders, but we still had a point to prove this season as people said we won a bad championship last year.
“It just didn’t come together. Maybe it was a lack of consistency – did we put in the work on a personal level, were we as fit as last year, did we ignore the basic skills.
“There’s a number of things we could look at and it’s hard to pin down any one thing. I think it was a case of dropping 5 or 10 percent in a number of areas. For us to beat those top teams we have to be at our best and we were far from our best this year.”
Morgan also expects that the exit of seven players from the camp had a detrimental impact as far as training was concerned. However, the recent influx of a number of players from the All-Ireland u-20 team (namely Ruairi Canavan, Niall Devlin, Michael McGleenan and Steve Donaghy with likely more to follow) should help ensure competition levels remain high in the long term.
“At the start of the year I was vocal about that, thinking it didn’t affect us too much because there wasn’t a split in the camp and lads left for their own reasons.
“However it did have a knock-on effect on the standards on training as those were all players trying to get into the starting team. There were new lads in who probably felt that this was almost like a work experience year and now they’ve probably realised the only way to get into the team is to show Brian and Feargal that they really want to play.
“We now have another All-Ireland u-20 team coming in to help back us up. Our core of the team at the moment is made up of players who won the All-Ireland u-21 title in 2015, so having another group coming in bodes well for the future, and our minors have also been going well in the last few years.”