GAA Football

Errigal Ciaran start strongly but have more battles ahead, says McCrory

BEING fit and being fit to do something are two different matters. There’s a question mark over Errigal Ciaran captain Aidan McCrory in the first respect - and he points out that the second meaning remains to be proven about his club.

Errigal caught the eye by comfortably disposing of Clonoe by 14 points in the Tyrone SFC first round at the weekend, winning by 1-21 to 0-10, even though experienced full-back McCrory went off with a slight hamstring problem shortly after the first water break.

Having announced his inter-county retirement at the start of this year aged 33, after a decade in the Tyrone senior set-up, he joked that he was merely avoiding marking a former county colleague: “I just felt a wee bit sore there so the honest thing to do was put someone else on - and not risk having a one to one with ‘Skeet’ [Connor McAliskey] there.”

Yet although the latter scored five points, the O’Rahilly’s were well beaten, and McCrory acknowledged that Errigal had performed impressively, citing a couple of reasons:

“Nearly all our boys are fit at the moment, and that’s a big thing. There’s a good enough age profile of the team, so hopefully we’ll be fit to do something this year.”

Two more reasons were the Canavan brothers, Darragh and Ruairi - sons of the legendary Peter - who scored 1-5 and 0-5, even though teenager Ruairi only played the second half.

McCrory was careful not to add to any hype surrounding the sons of ‘God’, commenting: “We’ve a lot of boys with a lot of talent. Just because they have talent doesn’t mean they’re going to do that every day.

“We can’t be relying on a Darragh Canavan or an Odhran Robinson, or whoever it is, to pull us out. Everyone contributed, a lot of boys got on the scoresheet, and that was what we needed…

“It’s a big pitch and thankfully we were able to make use of the space. Every day will not be the same. You’re trying to get on the front foot and thankfully that worked out for us.”

Darragh Canavan is one of five Errigal players who helped Tyrone win the All-Ireland SFC this year, along with Peter Harte, Ben McDonnell, Niall Kelly, and goalkeeper Darragh McAnenly.

McCrory is happy to have them back involved with the club, obviously, but insists it doesn’t bring any guarantee of success: “We’ve only played three games with them. You don’t know what it’s going to be like in the long run but it’s looking good so far.

“Realistically, it’s just a first round game. Every team now is going to have the same Championship experience as you have, so we’ll see how we get on.”

He notes that quarter-final opponents Loughmacrory, although not a big name in Tyrone football, are flying high this year: “They’ve had a great league campaign, definitely, they’re up at the top of the league. We haven’t played them yet so I can’t say I know an awful lot; we’ve no experience of them, apart from last year, but they’re there on merit.”

The clubs are set to meet in the League this Saturday, at Errigal’s home of Dunmoyle, but whatever happens in that the Ballygawley men will still be fancied to progress in the Championship.

McCrory responded with a smile to that suggestion, though, saying: “Ah, I wouldn’t listen too much about boys trying to talk you up, they’ll only be talking you down next week. No, here, Tyrone championship, anything can happen. The favourites’ tag is no good to anyone at the end of the year.”

Indeed trophies are what matter around Errigal - but they haven’t been Tyrone senior champions for nine years now.

They did reach the 2017 and 2019 finals, losing by two points on both occasions, to Omagh and Trillick respectively, as McCrory recalls:

“We’ve been in a couple of Championship finals, we’ve been in semi-finals, we’ve been beaten first round as well. You’re hopeful every year, but so is every team in Tyrone.

“At the minute all we’ve done is win a first round game. You’ve still three games to win before you get any silverware - and every other team has the same chance as you have…

2012 to 2021 is a long time. There are other clubs in the same situation. We’d have been saying ‘It’s a long time’ for a couple of years - but it’s a long time until you do something about it.”

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