Tyrone have been dealt a major blow ahead of their National football league opener against Derry in Celtic Park tomorrow night.
For ace attacker Colm McCullagh has confirmed he’s quitting county football.
Dromore clubman McCullagh was a member of the 2005 squad that won the Sam Maguire Cup for the second time.
But it was in Tyrone’s latest triumph at National level two years ago when he really shot to prominence.
He hit 1-21 in their championship campaign and earned an All Star nomination and no doubt he would have come close to winning an award had he not picked up an injury early in that 2008 final against Kerry.
Mickey Harte acknowledged the part played by McCullagh in Tyrone’s success and wished him well although he said the door wasn’t closed on him if he was to change his mind in the future.
“Colm has been a great servant to Tyrone football and he has made his decision and we have to respect that,” he said.
“He has a young family as well as work commitments and has decided to concentrate on club football with Dromore.
“The door is still open to him if he feels that the situation has changed.
“But as time goes on and you get away from football at this level it gets more difficult to come back although he is still young enough to do just that.
“He was outstanding when we won the All Ireland two years ago, a very serious player.
“And he was very unfortunate to pick up a dead leg so early in the All Ireland final and I’ve no doubt that cost him an All Star award
“In his early days he was always capable of beating players and taking his own score while, of course, he is also a very reliable free taker.
“But in recent seasons I feel that his game had really developed. He added more to his game in a playmaking role and there is no doubt that we will miss him.”
Tyrone include two league debutants for their league opener against Derry in Celtic Park.
Ronan McNabb will start at left half back with Ardboe’s Kyle Cooney left half forward.
Moy’s Colm Cavanagh who didn’t figure with Tyrone in the Dr. McKenna Cup has been named in the left corner of the attack.
Meanwhile, Aidan O’Rourke, an All Ireland medal winner with Armagh in 2002, has been confirmed as Kieran McGeeney’s assistant manager in Kildare.
Both McGeeney and O’Rourke played Sigerson football with Queen’s University, the Dromintee man also managing them for two seasons.
TYRONE SQUAD TO FACE DERRY: J Curran; M Swift, Justin McMahon, Joe McMahon; D Carlin, C Gormley, R McNabb; A Cassidy, K Hughes; K Coney, B McGuigan, E McGinley; C Cavanagh, M Penrose, T McGuigan. P McConnell, G Devlin, M Donnelly, N Gormley, D Harte, J McAnulla, E McCusker, C McGurk, N McKenna, R McMenamin, M Murphy, Sean O'Neill, G Teague.