GAA Football

Cathal McShane rehab held back by pandemic: Tyrone assistant Gavin Devlin

Gavin Devlin , pictured with Mickey Harte, has joined Slaughtneil footballers

TYRONE assistant Gavin Devlin says the pandemic has sorely hampered Cathal McShane’s return to fitness – but expects the 2019 Allstar forward to feature for the Red Hands later this year.

Devlin also confirmed Mattie Donnelly was good to go just before lockdown as the Red Hands squad sit tight until September 14, the beginning of the inter-county season.

Tyrone received a massive boost earlier this year after Owen Roes clubman turned down a move to Australian Rules club Adelaide Crows – but just weeks later he suffered a serious ankle injury against Galway in February.

While it was felt the lockdown would give McShane time to get back to full fitness, his rehab was badly affected.

“For Cathal, the lockdown was a real bonus for him in one way, but in another way it might have been a slight setback as well in terms of his rehab,” Devlin explained.

“If we had been training all that time Cathal would have been getting serious rehab. Then lockdown happened and he wasn’t getting the same rehab as he would have been getting. So, it’s a two-sided coin with Cathal.”

Devlin could give no return date for McShane.

Assistant to Mickey Harte for eight seasons now, Devlin believes that four months of lockdown was an opportune time for players to work on aspects of their game they otherwise wouldn’t have had.

“The players had time to concentrate on their skills sets,” he said.

“Whenever you’re training collectively all the time it’s hard to find that window where you can zoom in on your own skills. But over the last number of months, players could have used that time to focus on things they needed or wanted to focus on.”

Meanwhile, Devlin insisted there would be no infringements by the Tyrone county panel of the September 14 start date for inter-county training.

Devlin is also thankful for the separation of the condensed club and county seasons having hooked up with the Slaughtneil footballers this year.

The Ardboe native said: “With the county set-up, we can’t train until September 14, and we’re not starting until then. That leaves us that window where I can focus on Slaughtneil.

“By mid-September, the club season will be almost finished and we’ll switch our focus to the county scene. The Tyrone players will enjoy their club scene and hopefully when they come back to us in mid-September they’ll be mad eager to come and hunt for another title if we can.

“A lot of our boys are self-motivated and are extremely well looked after with their S&C work with Johnny Davis who is in contact with them. If we can get the players to that date in September we’d be happy enough to take over from there.”

With no insurance in place for county players until September 14, the GAA warned that any early return to county training would result in fines and other punishment for county boards.

“In terms of the insurance end of things there is an issue there but that really is irrelevant to us in Tyrone,” Devlin said. “There is a fixtures programme put in place for club teams and even if we wanted to and even if we were allowed to train I don’t know how we could have.

“Games are coming week in, week out and there are championship matches coming right on top of it. Even if we tried to facilitate one night a week training I don’t know if we could have. The amount of games and trying to patch so many games into a small window… I think it’s worked out okay for us. We’re back and the National League is going to resume on October 18. We’ve four weeks to get ready and then the Championship [against Donegal] in early November.”

The Tyrone CCC has put in place an ambitious fixtures plan which will see seven club championship first-round double headers within the space of a week between August 13 and 18 on a straight knock-out basis.

But for the time being Devlin will be spending more time in Derry than his native Tyrone as the Slaughtneil footballers try to win back the senior title they last claimed in 2017.

In 2018, Coleraine defeated the Emmet’s after a quarter-final replay and suffered a shock semi-final loss to Glen last season.

Star forward Paul Bradley has since taken the reins and persuaded Devlin to assist him in the role for the 2020 season.

“When Paul rang me about it, he’d big plans for Slaughtneil this year. They’ve been beaten two years on the trot and they’re going to give it a real push this year.

“They’re a fantastic club, a dual club, and it’s a tough mix to get them ready for the level they’re at. But for some reason they can always find the balance and they’re always there or thereabouts every year. They’re quite a unique club, they live and breathe the GAA and the camogs are flat out as well.

“There’s a big commitment to Tyrone seniors and to get involved in anything else it would take something special, so when Slaughtneil comes calling, they’re one of only a few clubs I would have got involved with.”

Devlin knows the terrain of the Derry club circuit having had spells with Newbridge and Bellaghy.

“It’s been a strange year, no doubt,” said the 2003 All-Ireland winning defender.

“A few months back we would have been grateful for any football, so we’ve got to be thankful for what we have. The fact that we’ve got this I think everybody should grab it with both hands.

“I think it would have been difficult to go back without club football – that would have been hard on the club players. I think we’ve made the best out of the situation. It’ll be different when it comes to November time when there are no Ulster Club games but it’ll kill the winter for us. I think it’s really exciting times if things can stay on track and things don’t get disrupted, especially when you see what’s happening across the water and New York and these places, it’s crazy.

“Let’s pray what we have in store we can fulfil and that things don’t get worse.”

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

GAA Football