GAA Football

Tyrone forwards have always been under-rated: McAliskey

Connor McAliskey will return to the Tyrone panel for 2021 after a year away. Picture by Philip Walsh

RETURNING Tyrone forward Connor McAliskey is aiming to find a new level of consistency in his performances under Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher after admitting it was “very difficult to play on the inside line” in recent years.

The Clonoe man took the decision in late 2019 that he would take a year out from inter-county football last season. As it transpired, he missed a uniquely abridged season that involved just one championship game, a defeat by Donegal in Ballybofey.

While he admits that the pandemic scuppered his plans to “enjoy life” during his year away from the scene, he had no hesitation in answering the call to return when it came from Logan.

McAliskey had been in and out of the team under Mickey Harte, albeit serious knee (2017) and ankle (2018) injuries also made life difficult.

Conceding that he’s never reached the levels of performance he feels he’s capable of on a regular basis, the 29-year-old believes there is another level left in him.

“The word probably would be inconsistent. I would say I haven’t had a year that I have hit the level I’m capable of. I’ve shown in periods or games what I can do.

“Finding that confidence that you bring from club is difficult. I don’t want to go into it too much but it’s difficult playing the system we were playing.

“If it doesn’t work out, you can end up being isolated up there. It was finding that consistency in performances.

“In 2018, I was playing every game, was our top scorer, but there were spells in that I chugged along a wee bit and didn’t have a great game, but the next game I’d maybe hit 1-4.

“It’s finding the consistency in playing at the level I believe I can play at.

“At 29, I’m not getting any younger. I’ve played a lot of football for Tyrone so it hasn’t been a bad number of years, but I feel I have more to offer.

“I said that to Feargal, that I feel I’ve more in the tank. I wouldn’t say it was unfinished business but when the opportunity came to go back up, I had a bit more in the tank that I hadn’t shown at county level.”

McAliskey, who wasn’t on the panel when Harte’s time came to an end last winter, sent his former manager a message thanking him “for everything he’d done for Tyrone football”.

And while the system might not necessarily have suited him personally, McAliskey recognises that it did help Tyrone achieve a level of success.

“That’s the system Mickey and Gavin wanted to play, and we got plenty of reward out of it, how we competed in Ulster, played in Division One, got so far in the All-Ireland series every year.

“There’s obviously reasons for playing that system and it might have suited the profile of the team and the players we had available.

“It doesn’t take away the fact that it was very difficult to play on the inside line, especially against certain teams that play similarly, play a lot of men back.

“It was difficult to get the confidence going, to get a string of games where you were performing.

“I don’t think it was just myself – if you talk to a lot of our forwards, they probably had the same vibe. They showed glimpses of what they’re capable of but no more than that on a consistent basis.

“I’ve always said the personnel Tyrone have in their forward line has always been under-rated.

“Go and watch a Tyrone club league or championship game and see some of the players that are available, they’re great footballers and it’s a very competitive position to go for.”

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