Donegal direct approach a danger says Niall Morgan

By Barry O’Donnell

THE long kick-out strategy which reaped rich dividends for Donegal last time out, is a tactic which Tyrone need to have an answer to, Niall Morgan has warned.

Derry net minder Odhran Lynch fell victim to the booming deliveries from his counterpart at the other end of the field Shaun Patton last Saturday when he was caught out of position for three of the Tir Conaill goals at Celtic Park, during Donegal’s demolition job on the back-to-back Ulster champions.

Morgan himself is also one of the game’s most high-profile sweeper-keepers and he was full of admiration for the job done by Patton in exploiting Derry’s clear intent to push up on opposition kick-outs.

He cautions though that he can’t afford to be in the same predicament as Lynch, forlornly chasing back into his own square with a shot arrowing towards his empty net.

“I think between him and Rory (Beggan) they have the two kickouts with the longest range and it was an obvious game plan that they had against Derry and it proved very effective for them.

“They didn’t win a massively high percentage of their own kickouts but when they did they did damage so that is something that we are going to have to look at and address and come up with our own plan to see what we can do to go against it.”

Tyrone had to win their own game twice against Cavan at sun-soaked Kingspan Breffni on Sunday, surrendering an eight point advantage in the last quarter, before eventually regrouping and edging an extra-time classic 1-23 to 3-16.

With six players getting their first Senior Championship start for the Red Hands, and three more drafted in off the bench during the course of proceedings, Morgan hopes that the drama of the occasion will stand to the rookies.

“In fairness they have carried us during the league and they stood up there too. Players like Ciaran Daly, Sean O’Donnell, Ben Cullen coming on and scoring a point and Joe Oguz having a massive part to play, as well as Niall Devlin who has been a massive leader this year.

“There is a nice blend of the old and the new and we pulled together. It might not look like it from the outside looking in but this team is the most together team that we have had in a long time and you probably saw that in extra time when everybody was looking to dig each other out.”

Ace attackers Darragh Canavan and Darren McCurry each limped out of the fray with cramp at the weekend, as the exertions of a breathless afternoon in the Cavan heat, began to take its toll. Morgan however insists that they won’t be using the quick turnaround to the semi-final as any sort of excuse.

“There will be a lot of tired bodies but it’s the same for Donegal as they had to put in a big shift against Derry.

“A one week turnaround is going to be tight for both teams and its going to be tight on the body but at the end of the day you want to be playing games and thankfully the days of maybe having a three or four week break when all you do is train are gone but I suppose that’s easy for me to say as a goalkeeper!

“Donegal knew that the gameplan that they had to beat Derry was going to beat any side in Division Two so they got the opportunity to work on that progressively throughout the league whereas we had to go game by game to see what we could do to try and match up to the top teams. It is going to be an interesting game and there will probably be more learning in the video analysis than there will be on the pitch this week.”

The long serving county Number One was annoyed at the concession of three goals against Cavan, an aspect of the Red Hands defensive game where they will need to tighten up against a potent Donegal forward unit.

“We have been shipping too many goals. I think we had only one clean sheet in the league, and losing three like we did against Cavan won’t be good enough against Donegal.

“We need to work at that this week in training and try and close that down because we don’t score a lot of goals ourselves and as you saw against Cavan getting goals are massive momentum changers in games.”

While many observers felt that Tyrone would be preparing for a re-acquaintance with Mickey Harte this Sunday in the semi-final, Morgan wasn’t shocked that Jimmy McGuinness produced a shrewd tactical template to which the Oak Leafers had no answer.

“Donegal were super and I suppose we all knew with Jim coming back that they were going to bring something different. You could have sort of sensed that they had been planning for Derry all throughout the league, they didn’t seem concerned about anything else.

“They got their game plan right and they toppled them well and they will be a completely different proposition to the side that we met early in the year in the McKenna Cup.

“We are expecting a massive, massive battle. They have some unbelievable players with boys who have been there this last three or four years but this year they look like completely different animals so we know that we have a lot of homework to do this week.

“They look so fit and I suppose they look like the Donegal of old in terms of their fitness. Ryan McHugh and Brendan McCole look like different players this year and I was very impressed with McGonagle at six. You then have Magee and Langan in the middle and Ciaran Thompson there as well, all players who are six foot two or over and that is a big plus in that sector of the field.

“Up front they have firepower as well and are ruthless. They are just a very impressive side throughout and they have all bought into what Jim wants to do and Jim strikes me as someone that if you don’t buy into what he is doing you can hit the road. He has been a massive plus coming back in for Donegal this season and come Sunday it will be up to us to try and foil them.”

However while the nature of Tyrone’s late collapse in normal time will have alarmed many supporters, the Edendork star stated that their character and courage couldn’t be questioned.

“We had to dig it out. Obviously when we went 7 or 8 points ahead at one stage I didn’t think that they would comeback but they threw the kitchen sink at us and they deserve a lot of credit. It would have been easy for them not to throw in the towel but maybe accept defeat they were never going to do that. In one way you are disappointed that they got it back to a draw but in another way you are thinking at least we didn’t let the momentum go completely against us and lose.

“We got the draw in normal time and then we stemmed the tide a bit and I thought that we controlled the extra time a bit better although it was still very tight but we got over the line and that was the most important thing.”

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