McCurry's leap of faith helped improve his game and hand Tyrone Ulster title

Tyrone's Darren McCurry in action during the Ulster Senior Football Championship final between Tyrone and Monaghan at Croke Park Picture: Philip Walsh

WITH a mighty leap and a safe pair of hands, Darren McCurry plucked the ball from the sky and won the Ulster title for Tyrone.

Calling a mark to the right hand side of the posts at the Hill 16 end, he chose the perfect angle to knock over his side's 16th point, and this one would be the clincher.

This is the new Darren McCurry, a driven individual whose relentless pursuit of self-improvement reaches into every aspect of his game.

A sweet left foot is the Dazzler's trademark, but endless hours of work on complimentary skills – the weaker foot, the tackling, the tracking, the pace, the passing – have made him a more complete footballer.

This season's big issue is the art of winning your own ball.

He's one of the team's smaller players, but McCurry's high fielding has been an outstanding feature of his evolving game.

And that memorable 67th minute fetch at Croke Park, one-on-one with a much taller Monaghan defender, was the product of exhaustive hours of work on this one basic Gaelic football skill.

Towering midfielder Brian Kennedy, standing at 6'7”, is his sparring partner at Garvaghey in repetitive drills under the dropping ball, McCurry revealed.

“I have been watching my game back, especially last year, and I knew I needed a bit of work on the high balls.

“So this last three or four weeks that's what I have been working on,” he said.

“I had big Brian Kennedy in with me and getting balls kicked in, and I'm happy with where it is at the minute, and hopefully I can push on.

“I knew it was something I could get better at, especially when there's sweepers back, and the ball has come in high, that diagonal ball.

“To be able to win your own ball is massive. And it ended up winning us the game at the end.”

McCurry admitted Tyrone were fortunate to survive Monaghan's fury in a dramatic second half to emerge with a one-point win and a 16th Ulster title.

“In the second half, we were lucky to get out of that game, to be honest.

“Monaghan came out all guns blazing, and to be fair to them, they put up a good show, and we were lucky enough to get over the line at the end.”

Defensive issues are now under the spotlight as the Red Hands prepare for an All-Ireland semi-final crack at Kerry.

The Kingdom's ruthless attack smacked six goals past Tyrone in the League semi-final, but McCurry feels the men at the back have sorted out many of the problems that dogged them earlier in the season.

“The defence has definitely tightened up. I think our defence was superb, especially in the first half. They made some great interceptions, so we're happy with that.

“There's everything to play for in this semi-final, and I think we have nothing to lose.

“Our full focus now is on Kerry. But there's definitely a lot of work to do after that second half, a lot of things to tighten up on.

“So we'll keep the heads down and work hard over the next couple of weeks.”

Enjoying the form of his life, and with his third provincial medal in the bag and, the Edendork man is living the dream.

“These Ulster Championships aren't easy come by, and the third one is probably the sweetest one, considering the circumstances, with the whole Covid situation.

“We were just delighted to get over the line.”

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