GAA Football

Competition fierce as Tyrone players compete for places in Mickey Harte's squad

Conall McCann says he doesn't envy manager Mickey Harte his selection headaches
Andy Watters

COMPETITION for places is fierce in Mickey Harte’s Tyrone squad as players battle for seats on the team bus for Sunday’s Dr McKenna Cup final and, more importantly, the Division One campaign that follows hot on its heels.

A talented Red Hand group jostles for jerseys and early season game-time and midfielder Conall McCann says he “doesn’t envy” manager Mickey Harte his selection headaches.

“He must have a headache picking the team,” said McCann.

“Some boys are showing really well, and that’s not to mention four or five Jordanstown boys that are coming back in as well.

“Boys have claims to stake and they want to get their place on the team. It’s good for Mickey that he has so much to choose from, but from the players’ point of view, it’s very hard to try and get on this team and keep you place.

“We have four good wins now, and every game there have been boys who have played well. You think they’re flying, and then you go to the next game, and they mightn’t have as good a game.

“So it’s very hard for him to pick and it’s very hard as a player to impress him because there’s 30-odd men doing the exact same and that basically is what the McKenna Cup is about for us, trying to get boys into that frame of mind that they can play in the League, play in the Championship, so we’re just happy to get another game so we can show what we’re made of, and some of the squad players, including myself, can stake a claim for the League.”

Conditions were awful at Brewster Park on Sunday, but McCann grabbed his chance to impress Tyrone boss Harte with a courageous display. With handling difficult and scoring practically impossible in the second half (which Tyrone won 2-1) Killyclogher clubman McCann was named man of the match for a combative display in the Red Hands’ engineroom

Tyrone’s 0-8 to 0-4 win booked a seventh Dr McKenna Cup final appearance on-the-trot and, like manager Harte, McCann welcomes the extra game as the Red Hands prepare for a Division One campaign that begins at Galway’s Pearse Stadium on January 28.

“Credit to Fermanagh,” said a soaked-to-the-skin McCann after Sunday’s game.

“They’re really hard to play against, especially with the conditions. The pitch wasn’t great either, and with the way Fermanagh set up, they were very hard to break down, and credit to them because I think we only scored two points in the second half, out of a total of eight so it just shows you the progress that they have made.

“For us, it was just about getting through to the final by whatever means possible, and thankfully we did that, and we’re grateful to have got another game.

“It’s a work in progress, and we’ll take it game by game. We’ve got another game in the McKenna Cup, and it will be good preparation for the first National League game in two weeks’ time.”

Sunday’s game was a slog for both sets of players and by the finish the ball was plugging in the Brewster Park mud. McCann was critical of the playing surface at the old fashioned Enniskillen venue.

“I don’t think I have played on a worse county pitch, to be honest, in terms of underfoot,” said McCann.

“There was no bounce and it was very hard to run on; it’s not a good pitch. You’re used to running in training on a decent pitch, but when you go out and run on that it’s very difficult.

“There was the rain and the wind and stop-starts from fouls and stuff like that. It just wasn’t a good game to play in. But it was a good game to win, because that will stand to you come later on in the year.

“It’s good to get a real battle, for that will put us in good stead for League games, because the weather will probably be similar to that. We’ll look forward to that.”

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