Tyrone and Edendork St Malachy's goalkeeper Niall Morgan pictured at the launch of AIB’s new series, The Drive, which explores the adversity faced by inter-county players in the modern game and what drives them to pull on the jersey year after year. Hosted by Ardal O’Hanlon, The Drive features the stories of four inter-county players and their journeys on and off the pitch, celebrating the incredible perseverance showed by players across the country, who despite logic, can’t quit, no matter how tough it gets, because Tough Can’t Quit. You can view the teaser for the series on AIB GAA’s social channels.
Tyrone and Edendork St Malachy's goalkeeper Niall Morgan pictured at the launch of AIB’s new series, The Drive, which explores the adversity faced by inter-county players in the modern game and what drives them to pull on the jersey year after year. Hosted by Ardal O’Hanlon, The Drive features the stories of four inter-county players and their journeys on and off the pitch, celebrating the incredible perseverance showed by players across the country, who despite logic, can’t quit, no matter how tough it gets, because Tough Can’t Quit. You can view the teaser for the series on AIB GAA’s social channels.

Niall Morgan tips Armagh to win Sam


By John Harrington

Armagh look like a team coming into form at the perfect time after consecutive wins over Tyrone and Donegal, an assessment that Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan agrees heartily with.

He saw at first-hand just how potent they are when Tyrone lost to the Orchard County by six points in Round 1 of the All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers.

Because of how well they played that day and in their subsequent Round 2 win over Donegal, Morgan doesn’t just fancy them to beat Galway in Sunday’s All-Ireland SFC Quarter-Final, he thinks they have a great chance of going all the way this year.

“I'm going to grit my teeth and say this: I think Armagh have an unbelievable chance, not only of getting to a final but actually winning an All-Ireland final,” said Morgan at the launch of AIB's new GAA content series, TheDrive.

“I think the way they play is really going to suit Croke Park.

“They know when the time is right to bunch up at the back, and defend hard; they can open up the play, kick pass all around the pitch; they've got really exciting forwards; they've got tough defenders. It's probably their only area of weakness: have they got enough tough defenders? They've got a strong midfield.

“The biggest thing this weekend for them against Galway is who is going to pick up Shane Walsh in a space as big as Croke Park. We're all waiting on Shane to explode in a big game. I don't think it's too far away. That's going to be the game of the round.”

One notable aspect of Armagh's wins over Tyrone and Donegal was the big part played in them by their new sweeper-keeper, Ethan Rafferty.

Rafferty previously made his name as an out-field player for the Orchard County, so eyebrows were raised when Armagh manager, Kieran McGeeney, converted him into goalkeeper this year.

Armagh goalkeeper Ethan Rafferty kicks a point during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 1 match between Armagh and Tyrone at Athletic Grounds in Armagh.
Armagh goalkeeper Ethan Rafferty kicks a point during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 1 match between Armagh and Tyrone at Athletic Grounds in Armagh.

2021 All-Star Morgan doesn’t mind admitting he was a doubter himself, but after Rafferty scored two points from play in Armagh’s All-Ireland SFC Qualifier victory over Tyrone and acquitted himself well in all other aspects of the position, the Tyrone net-minder joined the ranks of the converted.

“At the start of the year, I thought it was madness,” says Morgan. “I didn't know whether it was going to work or not. I know he had a small bit of history in goals whenever he was younger. I thought it was too late to make a goalkeeper out of somebody. I've been proved seriously wrong. Bit by bit, he's grown into games.

“He's made his mistakes, surely. I sort of thought that come a big game, his [lack of] experience as a goalkeeper would let him down. I think Donegal really got on top of him in Ulster. Because of that, he's grown even more. He was excellent against us, and excellent against Donegal in the backdoor. 

“He's strong under the high ball, great at carrying the ball, and his kickouts have got a lot better. His shot-stopping is slowly improving. That's probably his only area of weakness. It's crazy to think that when talking about a goalkeeper, shot-stopping is now near the bottom of the list rather than at the top.”

Considering Rafferty is still so new to the demands of the new position you’d imagine opposition teams will try to press up on him when he carries the ball out of defence, but Morgan believes that’s a lot easier said than done.

“It's hard because for another team to mark him, they have got to leave somebody else free,” he says.

“Then it leaves you open for a pop over the head, and you're away on the attack. That's the great thing about being a goalkeeper.

“It's hard to be marked. I know against Mayo in the All-Ireland last year, we had talked about whether they would mark me if I came out. They let me go, but the minute somebody came running to me, you had the pop over the head. 

“The key is that if the goalkeeper does go, he needs support. We overturned them at one stage because he went and nobody went with him. It could very easily have ended up in a goal. That could have changed things. I wouldn't have any worries if they did push up on him. He's played midfield for Armagh before. He's well versed on what to do if somebody is marking him.”