GAA Football

Versatility may have cost me Tyrone spot: Conall McCann

Conall McCann started last year's National League defeat to Donegal, but didn't feature in the remaining two games of Tyrone's campaign. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Neil Loughran

CONALL McCann takes a second to think back before the role call begins - eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15. Those are the numbers he has worn on his back throughout a six year Tyrone career, a demonstration of how difficult it can be to nail down a position in a squad stacked with such quality.

Most comfortable in midfield, McCann’s best days saw him dominate the skies before eating up the grass beneath his feet. But when the next game rolled around, depending on the opposition, he could be switched out to the wing. Or moved into the square.

“It is hard when you’re getting moved about like that – you just want a chance to show what you can do and get a proper run at the thing,” he said.

“I played full-forward a bit when Cathal McShane got injured and I had to change my game, but I ended up playing well a few times and I was thinking then ‘if I’m being told I’m playing here I can actually go hard at this and make it work’.

“I always felt I was smart enough to play that kind of role correctly – in my eyes that versatility is a good thing, but then maybe managers don’t know where to play you because you don’t have one set position.

“It probably didn’t help me, looking back.”

And for all that he is grateful to Mickey Harte for handing him an opportunity with Tyrone, the feeling he never had the manager’s full faith was a constant source of frustration.

“Not being a big name or a seasoned player, it always sort of felt like if the game was going bad or you lost, you were going to be dropped - like you were an easy target. I always felt like I was in that category.

“The likes of the League game against Donegal even last year – I started, we were beat and then I was dropped and didn’t get on the next two games. It does leave you wondering ‘where do I go from here?’

“Nothing would be relayed to you, you’d just have to work it out yourself, which isn’t easy. There were times I felt, on my form at training, that I should have been playing but Mickey might have seen it differently.

“At the end of the day though I am grateful to Mickey for picking me in big games and trusting me to play; I am thankful for that.

“No matter what was happening I always saw myself as a team player, always put the team first. Even if I wasn’t playing I’d be positive in the dressing room, I wanted the best for the boys, and that’s still the same now.”

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