Niall Morgan hopes Tyrone can respond
By Cian O'Connell
"We've had a great reaction in training," says 2021 Football Gaelic Writers Association Personality of the Year, Niall Morgan.
At the start of the month Tyrone were defeated by Derry in the Ulster SFC, but Morgan is relishing the opportunity of featuring in the All Ireland qualifiers.
"In years gone by after a defeat you see some boys almost, not ducking out of training, but maybe not being as positive going forward," he adds.
"But the reaction has been great by the crop that we have and by the management."
Morgan stresses the importance and relevance of sheer hard graft.
"Everybody is looking forward to our next match, getting back on the pitch and trying to right the wrongs
"There is no guarantee that it will definitely happen, but everyone is putting their shoulder to the wheel.
"And if there's one thing you can dictate it's how hard you work. Against Derry we didn't work hard enough, we were outworked all over the pitch and that's why they got their victory.
"That's an easy one for us to set straight, by going out and trying our best and working hard. If that's not good enough on the day, so be it."
Morgan acknowledges that the Derry defeat was tough to take.
"Definitely," Morgan replies. "After we won last year we obviously didn't take anybody for granted, but you sort of get that taste of success and you think it's goingto happen again.
"I suppose a bit like before that, whenever we weren't winning you sort of think are we going to have another year like that.
"Derry had a gameplan for us, they've been working on the same gameplan the whole way through the year and it worked for them.
"It wasn't a surprise to us how they played, we knew how they were going to play, we just couldn't counteract it on the day.
"Unfortunately sometimes you have to admit that the better team won and we'll have to work to figure out ways to play against that because there are going to be other teams who will play a similar way against us as well so it's up to us to put our heads together and figure out where we're going wrong and how we're going to fix it."
Reflecting back on Tyrone's delightful All Ireland winning adventure, the gorgeous minutes spent with family at Croke Park after the decider against Mayo linger in Morgan's mind.
"Getting the wee man onto the pitch and then getting to see my Dad straight afterwards as well was great," Morgan recalls.
"In years gone by I was one of the people storming the pitch after an All-Ireland Final that Tyrone had won and you don't really think of the players and the memories that they're missing out on because of that.
"I was definitely very thankful to get to see everybody that has shared the journey with me throughout."
Demoralising defeats had been endured previously so to finally reach the summit brought real joy.
"I suppose you start to wonder," Morgan admits. "That as my ninth year so you're starting to wonder are we ever going to get over the line because we were close on a number of occasion. Last year was my fifth or sixth time getting to the All-Ireland semi-finals at least.
"You start thinking, 'Jesus, this is going to be every year we're only getting to the semi-final or quarter-final and you're going to get beat and then have to come back in the next year and do the same thing all over again'. So it was brilliant to finally reach the top and get over the line."
In the 2021 campaign Tyrone suffered a heavy league loss to Kerry. Can a similar response be summoned following the Derry reversal?
"Last year we had frank discussions after the Kerry game about what our aims were for the year," Morgan says.
"There is 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.
"While 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."
Morgan is looking forward to embracing that challenge.