Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

McCury eager to fill boots of Tyrone legends

Newcomer Darren McCurry scored five points in Tyrone's win over Antrim in the Dr McKenna Cup

It's just after Tyrone's handsome six-point win over Antrim in the Dr McKenna Cup, and a gaggle of reporters surround the latest Red Hands shooting sensation, Darren McCurry.



He gives the interview with patience and politeness, but clearly he is uncomfortable with the experience, finishing up by making a comment that he “hates interviews, boys”, almost by way of an apology.

However, it reads back that the Edendork attacker was assured throughout, similar to his performance on the field when he hit five neat points from play.

If he continues to handle himself like this, he has an exciting future ahead of him.

Of course, Sunday was not the first we have seen of him. Last season during the All-Ireland qualifiers campaign, Mickey Harte dropped him into the panel after impressing with the county under-21 team.

He immediately responded when replacing Johnny Lafferty against Roscommon, scoring four points from play.

Asked to capture his ability after that game, no less than Owen Mulligan memorably commented that the prodigy was ‘different gravy', a phrase that McCurry himself used on Sunday to describe the jump up from under-21 football to senior.

With Mulligan currently committed to captaining his club Cookstown Fr Rocks through the latter stages of the All-Ireland Intermediate Championship, McCurry could be a natural successor. He is blessed with good pace, is direct and has an accurate shot.

Mickey Harte wasn't drawing comparisons himself, but left us in no doubt about a quality both men possess when he said: “He doesn't underestimate his own ability and that's not a bad thing, kept in the right place.

“He's a very good finisher and he shows well for the ball. For a small stature of a man he's feisty and you couldn't ask for more than that.”

There is no doubt that the inside forward line has become no country for old men in inter-county football.

For a couple of years now, Stephen O'Neill has struggled manfully as a full-forward being double and sometimes triple-marked by defensive-minded opposition.

For someone who has made such a rich contribution to Tyrone football, there was an emerging pathos about this.

However, the role that O'Neill played on Sunday — foraging outfield and threading balls inside to McCurry and Conor McAliskey alongside the ultimate link-man in Peter Harte — could be a more natural home for his talents at this stage of his career.

Such service was appreciated by McCurry, who said “Ah, that man's a legend. The ball he puts into you, he just puts it on a plate to you, all you have to do is turn and put it over the bar.

“He makes it easy and it's great to play with boys like that.”

Showing his tender years, he continued: “I remember watching boys like that on TV and it's great to get an opportunity to play with them. I just have to take it.

“I always looked up to them, I used to dream of playing for Tyrone and I have worked very, very hard because that's what I try. I've tried to be as good as Canavan and Mugsy, O'Neill and all those players.

“Soon enough, I will be retired. I will be as old as some of them players are now so I just have to work as hard as I can and just push on.”

The Edendork teenager, who is serving his apprenticeship as a plumber, had been injured for a spell leading into pre-season training. It meant that he missed out on a lot of work, but the blessings of youth has allowed him to slot back into the set-up with ease.

Although there are a number of new faces from the Championship panel he was a part of last year, he avoids considering himself as someone who is assured of a place on the panel, stating: “It was good last year to get my chance. I have a point to prove this year that last year wasn't a fluke. I just have to keep my head down and work hard and see where it takes me.”

Acknowledging that he might not get the freedom that he enjoyed in Casement Park among the tight defences of Division one in the National League, he again threw a dummy to the notion that he is guaranteed his place for the spring series.

“As the year goes on teams are training more together,” he stated. “The intensity goes up and it is near to Championship and league, so boys are trying hard to make the league panel. Everybody is working very hard to get on that league panel.”

Tyrone finish their group stage games on Wednesday night when Jordanstown come to Omagh. It could be McCurry's home debut, something the usually-bumper Healy Park crowd will relish.

Different gravy, indeed.

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