HomeFootballNiall Morgan rules out future interest in NFL career as he hails...

Niall Morgan rules out future interest in NFL career as he hails ‘calm’ Kerry ’keeper Shane Ryan

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Morgan came close to joining fellow inter-county goalkeepers Rory Beggan, Mark Jackson and Charlie Smyth at the International Combine in Indianapolis in March. The trio, in additional to former rugby player Darragh Leader, were there as part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway Programme.

Smyth signed a three-year rookie contract with New Orleans Saints in April while Beggan and Jackson trained with franchises Carolina Panthers and Pittsburgh Steelers in May. Morgan was in the frame late last year, having taken part in kicking camps in the UK and Ireland.

“I went to Birmingham in October and performed really well, I was probably in the top two selections over there,” said Morgan. “But I had a bad day in Dublin and it just knocked me out of the top five and I didn’t get across to America.”

With a wife and young family Morgan admitted even leaving for up to seven weeks in February and March would have been difficult for him.

“I had to take them into consideration but it would have been very hard to turn down whenever you get the opportunity to be a professional athlete too,” said the Edendork man. Though the door is now closed, he added.

“I tried it, I’m glad I tried and I have no regrets but I’m content now with where I’m at with the job in school [he is principal of St John’s, Eglish in Armagh]. Everything seems to be going well in that regard.

“I think I’m more content this year than last year. You do get intrigued when somebody comes along and offers you something and you give it a go but it didn’t work out,” said Morgan, who last week was appointed one of the new co-chairs, along with Dublin camogie’s Aisling Maher, of the Gaelic Players Association.

Morgan, a 12-year veteran with Tyrone, goalkeeper for the last 12 years, feels he has come off his best season yet, despite the team not making All-Ireland semi-finals for a third successive year.

“You do get some gratification out of it, that at least you have done everything you can. But still at the end of the year you are coming back empty-handed. It’s another year, I wouldn’t say wasted, but left behind. I suppose the only thing we can take out of the last three years is that we have continued to maintained our Division 1 status.”

Looking ahead to the weekend All-Ireland semi-finals, Morgan sees contrast in all four goalkeepers, acknowledging Kerry’s Shane Ryan as among the calmest in the game. “Nothing seems to faze him, he always seems to have the same demeanour,” said Morgan.

“When I was young, I would have got frustrated at times but since he came in he always seems to be the same, he’s always so calm.

“If something goes wrong or he concedes a goal, he just gets up and gets on with it. It’s something I’ve learned over the last two or three years that if you start showing you’re frustrated, it’s easier for the other team to get on your back.”

Morgan has described as “scandalous” what Donegal Shaun Patton can do from kick-outs off just three steps but sees strengths in Armagh’s Blaine Hughes and Galway’s Connor Gleeson too.

“The way Armagh are getting out for their kick-outs this year,” said Morgan. “Blaine has obviously come back in for Ethan [Rafferty] and it was a massive thing to stick with him because everybody thought once Ethan came back, he was going to go straight in. It’s a testament to how Blaine has been playing.

“All four teams are different. Kerry will probably bunch and break. They have so many people who want the ball and Armagh are similar. Galway are long in the kick-out but they have six foot-plus players from No 5 to 12. When they press up, you’re thinking, ‘What do I even do with this?’

“Blaine is the only one of the four who will come out and join the attack and we saw last year with Kerry and Dublin [when] both ’keepers stayed back. That brings up the question is it really helpful to join or can it slow things down? It’s going to be interesting.”

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