Keepers now playing key role, says Morgan

Niall Morgan has come up with his own expression to illustrate just how important goalkeepers have become in Gaelic football.

Because of the new 45 metre rule for kick-outs, either the Tyrone man or Paddy O’Rourke will, quite possibly, be the most important Ireland player in Saturday’s International Rules test.

“If you look at the status of goalkeepers, it has gone from being the fat kid to being one of the key members of the team!” said Morgan.

“I don’t think (Stephen) Cluxton made himself available. But there is Rob Hennelly, Brian Kelly, Rory Beggan and Paul Durcan – there are a lot of goalkeepers now who are becoming household names. It’s not just the full forwards who do all the scoring.”

Morgan’s brief is onerous, the hosts likely to swarm the middle with big men to negate his restarts.

“They will probably just zone the pitch and make sure that there is no kick-out on. Because of the mark they are going to be more natural fielders. We will have to make sure that wherever the kick-outs go, they are not going to their best fielders. We will have to keep it away from them and keep it out of the air as much as possible.”

The incredibly agile Nic Naitanui will be in the area for set plays before roaming around. “The word is he is a bit of an animal,” said Morgan. “One of the Australians called him a ‘freak of nature’. He seems to be one of the tallest, one of the strongest and one of the fittest. He just seems to have everything going for him. It will be interesting to see whether they play him in the middle or in the full forward line and target him.”

Back home, Morgan is already contemplating 2015, but without the likes of recently retired Stephen O’Neill and Martin Penrose. He won’t be making excuses in their absence.

“A lot of young boys came in last year and there are a few more this year. I think the young boys are ready to start up. But talk is cheap. It’s time we walked the walk.”


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