GAA Football

Mickey Harte confirms Connor McAliskey has left Tyrone squad

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte. Picture by Seamus Loughran.
Francis Mooney

MANAGER Mickey Harte has confirmed that Connor McAliskey has left the Tyrone squad, and will play no part in the Red Hands’ challenge for honours in 2020.

It’s understood the corner forward has decided to opt out for a year, and the door has been left open for his return.

Harte said that the Clonoe man has informed him of his decision to take a break from inter-county football.

“That’s just a choice that he has made. He doesn’t feel that he’s ready to commit for this particular year,” said Harte.

“I don’t think it’s a retirement as such, it’s just a break.”

McAliskey’s game time was limited during the 2019 season, chiefly die to a combination of injury and a shift in attacking strategy which saw Cathal McShane and Mattie Donnelly pushed into advanced positions.

McShane’s move to the inside line proved to be a sensational success, and earned him an All-Star award.

McAliskey is not the first attacker to leave the Tyrone squad in recent times. Ronan O’Neill departed earlier this year, frustrated by a lack of game time.

Darren McCurry also left the set-up last year, but returned this season to reclaim his place in the team.

And Mark Bradley missed the entire 2019 campaign after taking a year out to pursue post-graduate studies in Liverpool, but is back home, and set to return for the season ahead.

Tyrone captain Mattie Donnelly will miss the National Football League due to a hamstring injury which is set to sideline him for six months.

He suffered damage to a tendon which holds the hamstring to the bone while playing for Trillick in the Ulster Club Championship against Derrygonnelly of Fermanagh earlier this month.

His absence will be a huge blow to the Red Hands’ hopes of challenging for the Division One title, and there’s also concern that the former All-Star could miss the Ulster Championship opener against Donegal.

Midfielder Declan McClure is also likely to miss the early part of the season, having suffered a knee injury while playing for Clonoe in the club championship last month.

Tyrone will get the new season under way when they begin the defence of their Dr McKenna Cup campaign on Sunday December 29.

The fixtures have not yet been released by the Ulster Council, but the competition will have a new look due to the absence of the three university teams.

A switch in the dates for the Sigerson Cup meant the McKenna Cup competition would either have to be started in mid-December, or played without the colleges.

It came down to a vote by the nine counties, which led to the exclusion of Queen’s, Ulster University and St Mary’s, but Tyrone boss Harte revealed that the Red Hands voted for the former option.

“We were one of the counties that voted to keep the colleges there,” he said.

“Obviously we like more games than less, but I suppose it didn’t suit everybody that these games would all have to be played before Christmas, and then a lot of the counties didn’t particularly want to have an empty month in January.

“That appears to be the reason why a lot of the counties voted against moving everything to December.

“We would have been okay to play if it had been the case, but that’s the way it is.”

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GAA Football