Mark Bradley and Mickey O'Neill out of Tyrone squad for 2019 as Darren McCurry, Kyle Coney and Conan Grugan return
MARK Bradley will not feature for Tyrone next season. The Killyclogher forward, who hopes to qualify as a PE teacher, is studying a Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) in Liverpool and The Irish News understands that he has ruled himself out of the Red Hands’ squad for 2019.
Despite missing three Qualifier games through injury, hard-working forward Bradley played an important role in Tyrone’s run to this year’s All-Ireland final. He forced his way back into Mickey Harte’s plans at the outset of the Super 8s – scoring against Roscommon, Dublin and then Donegal - and two excellent early points sent Tyrone 0-3 to 0-1 ahead in the decider against the Dubs at Croke Park.
Unfortunately for Tyrone, that lead didn’t last and the Ulstermen will certainly miss Bradley’s finishing power and energy as they look to go a step further next year.
Also out of Mickey Harte’s squad is Clonoe goalkeeper Michael O’Neill who has competed with Niall Morgan for the number one jersey over recent seasons.
Morgan emerged as the first choice custodian for Tyrone’s run to last year’s Sam Maguire decider and it is understood that O’Neill has decided to opt out next season.
Also missing is emerging Aghyaran St Davog’s forward Ronan McHugh who featured prominently in last year’s McKenna Cup but not in the League or Championship campaigns. McHugh has suffered a knee injury which could rule him out of next season entirely.
On a much more positive note for Tyrone fans, Harte has recalled Conan Grugan, Darren McCurry and Kyle Coney for the Dr McKenna Cup.
Grugan was a McKenna Cup winner with the Red Hands in 2014 and he featured in that year’s Division One campaign and started at midfield in the Ulster Championship quarter-final loss to Monaghan which followed. However, he didn’t feature in the subsequent Qualifiers against Louth and Armagh but looks set for a return alongside forwards McCurry and Coney.
After failing to regain a place in the Tyrone starting line-up last year, Edendork sharpshooter McCurry withdrew from the panel in March citing work commitments as his reason.
“I was finding it difficult to train three or four nights a week,” said McCurry.
“That is the level of commitment that you have to give to county football and I feel that I’m not in the position to do that at the moment.”
He returns alongside Ardboe forward Coney who hasn’t worn the red and white jersey since January 2015. Now 28, he will be determined to show his true worth at inter-county level and could slot into the side at full-forward where he is capable of giving Tyrone the physical presence they have missed at times in recent years.
New faces in Harte’s McKenna Cup panel include Tyrone U20 star Brian Kennedy of Derrylaughan, versatile Galbally defender Liam Rafferty and highly-rated Aghyaran goalkeeper Benny Gallen who will compete with Lorcan Quinn for the spot vacated by O’Neill’s absence.
Killyclogher wing half-back Matthew Murnaghan is also expected to get his first taste of senior inter-county action but there is no call-up yet for Errigal Ciaran minor star Dara Canavan.