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Two-time All-Ireland winner Martin Penrose's exit could spark exodus at Tyrone

By Declan Bogue

Two-time All-Ireland winner, Tyrone's Martin Penrose, has informed manager Mickey Harte that he has retired, the Belfast Telegraph understands.

The Aghyaran and later Carrickmore forward won All-Irelands with the Red Hands in 2005 and 2008, gaining a reputation as one of the hardest-tackling forwards in the game along with an impressive accuracy with his left boot from free kicks.

He may not be the only one to bid goodbye to the inter-county stage, with doubts hanging over the continued involvement of a number of others.

Like the vast majority of squads by this stage, Tyrone players are already doing their strength and conditioning work in readiness for the new year, but they could face a number of retirements.

"There's a few players have made their decisions and a few others that are thinking about it," Harte said recently.

Others remain undecided, including the 2005 Footballer of the Year, Stephen O'Neill.

The Clann na nGael man turns 34 next week and after a couple of injury-ravaged seasons following a freak accident when he turned his ankle on a football in the Croke Park warm-up area ahead of the 2013 National League final, he has been unable to recapture his previously sparkling form.

Conor Gormley was left frustrated by a lack of gametime last year, the first time since he made his senior debut that he was considered anything other than first choice.

Dermot Carlin is back doing conditioning work, but has yet to fully decide his future.

Joe McMahon is currently involved in the Ulster campaign with Omagh St Enda's as they face St Eunan's this weekend in Celtic Park.

However, as another veteran of the 2005 and 2008 All-Ireland wins, he had previously indicated his difficulties in remaining with the county team while completing his teacher training.

On a more positive note, it has been confirmed that 2013 All-Star nominee Cathal McCarron is doing a strength and conditioning programme with a view to re-joining the county panel in 2015, and Conor Clarke is progressing well with his recovery from the cruciate injury he sustained in the club championship.

Speaking about the painful year Tyrone had last term, having used no fewer than 31 players throughout the league alone, Harte described the difficulties in getting a proper look at the talent at his disposal.

"It's one of those things. If you have players on the squad who are getting no gametime at all then they begin to wonder why they are there," he said.

"Then you give them gametime and maybe they are not as effective as you would have hoped they might have been.

"It's a period of transition for every player, even the top players. Very few of them walk straight onto a team and be a game-changer," he said, ahead of his 13th year as Tyrone manager.

"Obviously there are a group of players, I am talking about the 2008 All-Ireland-winning minors," he said.

"They have now got to come of age, they have got to be the real leaders in the team and they have got to make the difference," he added.

"I believe there are a number of them capable of doing that and it's something we have got to be working on and you will see it from them this year," said the Red Hands boss.

He also answered Sean Cavanagh who voiced his concerns that there is a measure of doubt in the ability of Tyrone to mount a serious challenge.

Harte continued: "I want to go out to prove to the players themselves that they are good enough to compete at the top level and they are good enough to do it themselves."

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