McCullagh is surprised by ex-Tipp pals' sparkling run
Exiled Tyrone man Conal McCullagh couldn't have picked a worse time to drop off the Tipperary football panel.
A former under-age star for the Red Hands, the native of Glenelly in north Tyrone had played a couple of National League games for Tipperary last season.
Believing that he was about to be on the move with his job with a pharmaceutical company, he transferred back to his home club and thus brought an end to his burgeoning inter-county career with Tipp, who are now facing Mayo in tomorrow's All-Ireland semi-final.
Now, with his long-term prospects assured, he has resumed playing for Clonmel Commercials and expressed surprise that his former team-mates have progressed in the manner they have.
"I probably thought last year might have been the year more so (to make a breakthrough). But then they got Tyrone last year at a very bad time," he said.
"Last year they had the likes of Seamus Kennedy (who declared for the senior hurlers), Colin O'Riordan (Sydney Swans in Aussie Rules) and Stephen O'Brien (hurling), who would have been three of the main players this year again. I thought they had a better team last year. Having lost so many this year, I am surprised, but they still have a very talented forward line.
"There have been a lot of boys who have stepped up. I would have loved to have seen how they would get on if they had held onto those players. Seamus, he is another Commercials man so I have seen him play for the last three years and he is a serious, serious footballer.
"But when it comes to down here, when you get a chance with the hurlers, you take it."
A fortnight ago, he accompanied county players Michael Quinlivan and Philip Austin to the Tyrone-Mayo game. He revealed: "I was at the semi-final with them. I don't think they wanted to play Tyrone in a semi-final, they fancy themselves more against Mayo."