GAA Football

Club action must come first says Tyrone's Kyle Coney

Kyle Coney (right) in action for Tyrone earlier this year in the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup.
Pic Philip Walsh
Francis Mooney

Tyrone's Kyle Coney says club football must come first whenever GAA action gets the go-ahead to kick-start.

The Ardboe man insists county squads will have to wait their turn and allow as many players as possible avail of any opportunity to compete.

But he admitted that the comments of GAA president John Horan on the improbability of gaelic games action while social distancing is required has dented his confidence that he will play again this year.

"In my opinion it has to go club football first, you can't start county football and leave club players behind. They need their football as much as we do, and all county players are club players," he said.

The prospect of inter-county Championship ties being played in empty stadia remains a distinct possibility, but not one which Coney approves of.

"It would be down the list of things that I would be willing to do," he said.

"If it was the only chance that I had to play football, I would say, play behind closed doors, but I would try and exhaust every avenue to try and get spectators there, because at the end of the day, the GAA is the life and soul of all communities."

John Horan's recent interview on The Sunday Game, when he suggested that gaelic games are unlikely to resume while social distancing policies remain in place, brought a sense of perspective to frustrated players and supporters.

Coney had felt confident that the 2020 club season, due to start in Tyrone on the last weekend in March, would belatedly get off the ground.

"I was pretty hopeful that there is going to be club football this year, even if it's only championship, but listening to the interview, social distancing is going to be the last thing to go.

"There's no way around social distancing, especially in a contact sport that the GAA is."

Having returned to the Tyrone squad last season following a four-year exile, a resurrected inter-county career had been shaping up nicely for the 29-year-old when Covid-19 brought everything to a halt.

Coney first came to prominence with a string of spectacular performances in Tyrone's 2008 All-Ireland MFC triumph.

After a brief Aussie Rules flirtation with Sydney Swans, he progressed to the Red Hand senior squad while still a teenager.

But his assumption that the transition would come easily to a gifted footballer proved to be somewhat wide of the mark.

"There is a difference that you can't see, it's hidden. You might be the best at your level, and at Minor level I was up there, doing things that minors shouldn't be able to do.

"And then going into the senior squad, where you were knocked off the ball easier, hadn't the maturity to know to hold the ball up.

"It's not about natural ability, you need to be able to run, you need to be physically strong, you need to be able to make the right decisions.

His expectation that he would quickly become a regular in Mickey Harte's team would also give way to a harsh reality as he struggled to nail down a place in a team peppered with All-Ireland winners and All-Stars.

"I probably expected to be straight in every week, regular. I thought myself that I would have been a Tyrone regular, first name on the team-sheet. That was my thoughts, but it just didn't come to fruition.

"There were men starting to come to the end of their time around 2010, who had given Tyrone some serious years, the likes of Brian Dooher, Philly Jordan.

"There was a new crop of players coming, and I fully believed that I was going to be a Tyrone regular.

"It was disappointing on my behalf that it didn't play like that out for me.

But the second coming of a more seasoned Kyle Coney has seen the talented playmaker seize the opportunity.

"I was back enjoying it, I had got that feeling back, it wasn't a drain, it wasn't a chore to be there, and I was enjoying being around the squad and around that kind of environment again, and what it took to be at that level.

"I felt this year was going to be a year when I could have made a regular place within the starting team, because there are one or two plaes that you could nail down.

"It's a bit disheartening, the way the season has gone. I was enjoying my football."

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