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Car pool driven by desire to grab Tyrone spot

By Declan Bogue

When the Dromore players fill a car to go to Tyrone training, there will be a keen sense of competition between them.

With four players [Ryan McMenamin, Cathal McCarron, Sean O'Neill and Ronan McNabb] all vying for a place in the Red Hands line-up in their league final against Kildare, the recently-returned McMenamin says the numbers don't add up.

“Wee Ronan McNabb is even dropping into half-back as well, so the four of us are looking for a place in the half back line”, he said yesterday.

“Four into three won't go, and then you have Petey Harte and Damian McCaul! Sean has been biding his time while he has been suspended, working hard and he will be looking to stake his claim.”

Tyrone beat Kildare in the first game of the league campaign, played under lights at Croke Park, but McMenamin is not reading too much into that performance, especially with Kildare in the middle of a rigorous week of training camp in Portugal.

“We were probably two or three weeks ahead of them in terms of fitness when we met them in the league. We put in savage work in January and February and maybe caught them out a bit”, he said.

But they are coming off a hard week's training in Portugal and probably thinking this is their chance to set themselves up for Leinster. It's going to be a great test. Kildare have been knocking on the door for major honours the last few years.”

The veteran of three All-Ireland triumphs has praised the players that have got them to the Division Two final on Sunday, even though their sterling performances kept him out of the team until the closing league fixtures, the home fixtures against Meath and Monaghan.

In recent years, the half back line had a familiar look of Davy Harte, Conor Gormley and Philip Jordan. While Jordan has retired and Gormley has taken up a different role, Harte is only returning from injury at present.

In their absence has emerged a flying half back line of Cathal McCarron, the free-scoring Peter Harte, and the left half-back slot has been contested by Damian McCaul and McMenamin.

‘Ricey' commented how hard it was to get back on the teamsheet, saying, “It's a hard road to get back in and with the way the boys were playing I didn't think I was going to get back in. It could all change with Sean O'Neill coming back and others fighting for their place.”

While Kyle Coney, Ronan O'Neill and Tommy McGuigan have fallen foul of injuries that have ended their seasons in the Tyrone attack, the rearguard has remained resolute.

“Defensively, we are alright because we haven't picked up any injuries”, continued McMenamin. “It is tough and it was a credit to the boys that have been playing there, but at the same time it's nice to get back in. I'm not holding my breath because there could be changes for Sunday.”

Tyrone's game this season has shown a marked increase in intensity and speed, something that was found to be lacking when Tyrone exited the Championship in disappointing fashion to Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

“We are doing a fair bit of sprint work and we are beating away at the gym work as well, two or three nights a week” McMenamin explained. “At the minute it's all go. I think everyone has the head down working.

“Mickey [Harte] likes the ball moved quickly and we are trying to play a good, quick pacey game and it's probably shown in the league. It's bringing that into the Championship and the game against Kildare will be close to that.”

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Following Sunday evening's bizarre Tyrone league fixture between Carrickmore and Dromore, it is believed that no action will be taken against either club in fielding weakened teams.

The game was played out, most unusually, in front of a paltry crowd for two of the giants of Tyrone club football and both teams were made up mostly of youth players. The scoreline at the end ended up 3-4 each.

The match was hosted at the neutral venue of Killyclogher, as a consequence of events that occurred during their league final last November at Dunmoyle, home of Errigal Ciaran. Fighting on the pitch and in the stands led to lengthy suspensions and heavy fines.

At the time of the sanctions, it was widely reported that the gate receipts from the game played at the neutral venue would be donated to charity. The Irish Times from November 26, reported that; ‘Further proposed punishments are fines of £300, the maximum provided for in rule, for both clubs as well as a recommendation that their next two competitive matches be played at neutral venues with proceeds from the game going to charity.'

It is believed that when the clubs became aware that the gate receipts would instead go to the county board, then they fielded what has been termed 'protest' sides, understrength teams populated mostly by underage players.

In what would be one of the biggest rivalries in Tyrone club football, attracting crowds of thousands, it was played out in an eerie atmosphere, with reportedly less than 20 supporters present.

As this is such an unusual occurrence, there are no such grounds to hold either club accountable, though it could be said that it was an act of defiance against the punishments laid down.

In a further twist, neither team can win the league, having been barred from taking part in the play-offs.

This left a sour taste with some players of both clubs.

Belfast Telegraph

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