We can still be in contention despite absences: Tyrone's Michael Cassidy
MICHAEL Cassidy may have earned his starting berth in the Tyrone team last season – but the Ardboe man is taking nothing for granted and believes the Red Hands have plenty to be positive about heading into the Allianz National Football League.
With Mattie Donnelly and Michael McKernan on the long-term injury list and Cathal McShane inching closer to a move to Australian Rules, many observers believe these absences will blunt Tyrone’s ambitions in 2020.
But Cassidy maintains there are plenty of quality footballers in the O’Neill County that can keep the team in contention.
“We just have to focus on the players that we have,” he said. “We’ve enough here in Tyrone to go on and do something. We definitely have enough.
“The competition for a place on the team is really, really tough. A couple of new lads have come in, especially Conor Quinn who I was really, really impressed with him in the McKenna final. His turnovers, his tackling, he was calm on the ball. So, competition is quite high.”
Quinn’s Galbally club-mate Daniel Kerr also showed encouraging signs in Tyrone’s three-point win over Monaghan on Saturday night, while Mickey Harte will continue to run the rule over the new recruits beyond their opening NFL Division One game against Meath this weekend.
“When you get four games on the trot in January it’s definitely a benefit,” Cassidy added:
“Some people don’t take the McKenna Cup too seriously but in Tyrone and especially Mickey, his thinking is, every time you go out to play, you go out to win.
“So, now we’ve got those four matches under our belt we feel we’re in a good position going into the League.
“Last year was my first year in with the squad. It was good to get the game-time I got, but there are no guarantees you’re going to get more game-time this year.”
Frank Burns is often deployed along Tyrone’s half-back line but the Pomeroy man may be needed in the full-forward line with McShane expected to be absent in 2020, which may give Quinn, Niall Kelly, Matthew Murnaghan or Michael O’Neill an opening.
Burns caught the eye in Saturday’s final, winning almost every ball that was kicked into him while claiming a number of assists.
“Frank is a versatile player,” Cassidy said. “He’s a very calm and collected type of person, and he can play in there, and there might be times he will play full-forward throughout the year.”
With a rising number of players opting out of the inter-county circuit due to time commitments, Cassidy is happy to put his shoulder to the wheel with Tyrone and is enjoying working with the new members of Harte’s backroom team this year.
“People say to you: why do you do it? You’ve a choice in life. You don’t have to do it. But we love the game and that’s why we do it.
“I’m really enjoying working under Mickey,” Cassidy added.
“I know ‘Horse’ [Gavin Devlin, Ardboe club-mate] well and with Johnny Davis and Kevin Madden there, they’re bringing a few different things to us this year and at the minute it’s working and hopefully it continues to work.”