Tyrone's Connor McAliskey comes to terms with injury
"SIXTY-TWO minutes into the year 2017 and it’s over..." words of devastating resignation from Tyrone’s attacking ace Connor McAliskey as he struggles to deal with the cruel fact his season has ended.
A torn cruciate ligament means the Clonoe clubman will not kick another ball for club or county this year, a hammer blow for player and for both teams. He suffered the injury close to the end of last Sunday’s Dr McKenna Cup defeat to Cavan at Kingspan Breffni Park, the extent of the damage confirmed by results of a scan a day later.
McAliskey was the Red Hands’ top scorer in the season opener with five points, and his loss will be sorely felt as they chase titles in league and championship. But on Tuesday, he pledged to work his way through recovery from surgery and back to full fitness, with a fervent promise that he will return stronger than ever.
“My plan is to come back bigger and stronger and better,” he said.
“You enjoy Christmas, but after that I had set targets, and I had planned to have a big year for Clonoe and for Tyrone. Unfortunately, the way it has worked out, that’s not going to happen.”
The 25-year-old inside forward recognises the importance of mental strength as he tackles the twin challenges of dealing with the disappointment and setting out a roadmap for the long road back to full fitness.
“I’ll just have to pick myself up and get my mentality right because it’s going to be a big year’s work still ahead to make sure I’m back and ready to play as soon as possible," he said.
“You can’t really control what’s set out for you, but it’s about how you react. I’m going to have to take a positive attitude towards this after the operation and get straight back into rehab. Obviously, it’s a big disappointment and, maybe for the first couple of days, it will not kick in.”
He will draw strength and support from the experiences of team-mates who have suffered a similar injury in the recent past: “You don’t have to look too much further than the Tyrone team and the Clonoe team to see boys who have gone through the process in the last year or two. You have Ronan O’Neill, Ronan McNabb and Conor Clarke, who all did their cruciates, and Collie Doris from Clonoe as well," he added.
“There’s a lot of men who have travelled this road before, but there’s obviously light at the end of the tunnel.”
On the bright side, McAliskey is looking forward to reclaiming elements of a social life that is otherwise off-limits to a top class gaelic footballer: “There’s going to be a change to my life for a year. What I’m not able to do on the pitch I’ll have to be doing in the gym to make sure that I’m ready to come back.
“But as much hard work as there’s going to be, I’ll also try to enjoy the year, look about planning a summer holiday for a change and look about enjoying a few weekends away that you maybe can’t do with the schedule of the GAA. But I’ll have to balance it.”
In the meantime, he’s confident that there’s enough attacking talent in the Tyrone squad to ensure they are right up there with the top teams in 2017: “We’re struggling with a few injuries at the minute, but once we get the full squad back, the competition will be serious.
“You have Ronan O’Neill, Darren McCurry, Sean Cavanagh and Mark Bradley in there, and with other boys challenging for positions, I think it looks like a good future for Tyrone.”