It is doubtful if any player will embark on the McKenna Cup campaign with a greater degree of enthusiasm than Tyrone’s Aidan Cassidy.
Hailed as an emerging midfield colossus when introduced into the side by manager Mickey Harte early last year, Cassidy’s initial form provided confirmation that a lengthy engine-room tenure beckoned.
But a badly fractured ankle just on the cusp of the Ulster Championship cruelly terminated the strapping 20-year-old Augher clubman’s involvement with the Red Hands and he has not kicked a ball since.
But when he lines out alongside Sean Cavanagh against Donegal at Healy Park, Omagh tomorrow the quiet-spoken Cassidy is determined to make up for lost time.
“I was gutted when I broke my ankle but I was very keen to get back into the Tyrone side. I’m delighted to be getting my chance again tomorrow and I want to try and make the most of it,” says Cassidy.
Manager Harte has every faith in the player, too, and believes that he can re-establish himself as a top-flight midfielder.
“Aidan was really getting into his stride when his injury happened in a club game. It could not have come at a worse time for him but he has shown great courage and character in battling back to get fully fit again,” says Harte.
Aidan McCrory (right-back) and Derrylaughan wing-forward Ciaran Gervin get their chances in a
Tyrone side that is otherwise peppered with triple All Ireland winners including Conor Gormley, Ryan McMenamin, Brian McGuigan and Stephen O’Neill while Martin Penrose, Davy Harte, Dermot Carlin and Colm Cavanagh help to embellish the team’s overall experience.
Eoin Bradley, still under suspension, is an absentee from the Derry squad for the match against Monaghan at Celtic Park but manager John Brennan is expected to focus closely on his half-forward options. Lee Moore, Rory Shivers and Niall McNicholl are players who could get their chance in this respect.
It is understood that Enda Muldoon is available although whether he will play a part against Monaghan remains to be seen while Paddy Bradley, Gerard O’Kane, Fergal Doherty, Kevin McCloy and Barry McGoldrick are among the old guard still on Oak Leaf duty.
Monaghan manager Eamon McEnaney, meanwhile, will assess a number of newcomers to his side at Celtic Park but has anxieties about the fitness of some of his more experienced players for the forthcoming National League.
TYRONE: J Curran; A McCrory, C McCarron, D Carlin; D Harte, C Gormley, R McMenamin; A Cassidy, S Cavanagh; C Cavanagh, B McGuigan, C Gervin; M Penrose, S O’Neill, M Donnelly.