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McMahon hungry to make up for lost time

By Declan Bogue

During last year's All-Ireland semi-final, Tyrone's Joe McMahon was replaced by Ronan McNabb after 44 minutes as the Red Hands' challenge disintegrated against a stubborn Mayo side.

Peter Harte and Stephen O'Neill had already been taken off through injury. McMahon had bother with his groin all summer and was managing as best he could, but he stretched for one ball too many and the Omagh St Enda's man's season was over in August.

Faced with the choice of an operation or to follow the rehabilitation instructions of the renowned Irish rugby Doctor Éanna Falvey, McMahon chose the latter.

He had been experiencing groin problems for years, but now as he entered his 30th year and with over 50 Championship appearances for Tyrone, it was time to let the body heal naturally.

In late April he returned to full training and almost immediately he tweaked his calf. It has been a frustrating couple of months for McMahon before he returned once again to training a fortnight ago.

Mickey Harte has named the experienced campaigner on his bench for the visit of Louth today in Healy Park (2.30pm).

Getting fresh air back into his lungs has been a blessed relief.

"You can only look at the four walls of a gym for so long," he said.

"Just to see the boys out training, you are standing there watching them in between doing sets of calf raises, just hoping and wishing you were back soon, but I have been out since August and I have to say it has been very, very frustrating. Now I am back, hopefully that will be the end of it and I will get a clear run now and get at it again."

Of all the Tyrone team, McMahon lives closest to Healy Park, a decent puc of a sliotár away from his club and county pitch.

In years to come he will be able to leave the comfort of his home and walk through the gates in three minutes, but for now, he is still mad for the battle.

Over the winter he questioned his appetite, those questions were answered emphatically in his mind as he watched the three games in the Ulster Championship.

"To put it into words would be difficult," he explains.

"I suppose it gave me a taster for what it might be like when boys finish playing, but I am in a position where I am still part of it.

"It can be very frustrating from the point of view that you see things happening. You can't help but think what you might have done if you were there."

A coach with the Ulster Council, he has tried to make the best out of a bad situation by casting his tactical eye over those who are playing.

"You try to take the positives, and feed back to the fellas from watching the game and give them a few pointers to help them along.

"Obviously, having experienced Championship football from 2004 with Tyrone you have played with different players and in different systems, so you can pass on whatever you have to the next generation of players."

Not many footballers, especially those who are within a panel and out through injury, are patient watchers. McMahon admits as much when he talks of the Monaghan defeat and the threat of Louth.

"On the day we had no real drive about us," he says of defeat to Monaghan.

"The way Monaghan had set up we were slow coming out of defence and it allowed them to get men behind the ball.

"From that point of view we have to look forward to Louth. I suppose they would have looked at Monaghan and play the same sort of system. We know what to expect now and we can improve upon it – or we would like to think so anyway."

Belfast Telegraph

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