Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Tyrone star McGuigan retires

Brian McGuigan has decided that now is the time for his intercounty football career to end
Brian McGuigan has decided that now is the time for his intercounty football career to end

Brian McGuigan has reacted to the dramatic player cull in Tyrone, and revealed how Red Hands manager Mickey Harte will be taking a different approach in 2013 as they attempt to wrestle the power back from All-Ireland champions Donegal.

The Ardboe playmaker was recalled to the panel in the middle of last season after being initially left off.

McGuigan had wanted to skip the early part of the season and return for the closing stages of the National League and Championship, but Harte disagreed and omitted him from the county panel.

Following defeat in the Division Two final to Kildare, however, he was recalled to the squad in late May for the Championship.

There was limited success to his return though, as he was restricted to a late substitute appearance against Donegal in their defeat in the Ulster semi-final.

And after being introduced against Kerry in the qualifiers, he received a red card shortly afterwards.

McGuigan now joins a host of others that have brought the curtain down on their inter-county careers, such as Ryan McMenamin, John Devine and Davy Harte.

The future of Owen Mulligan remains uncertain, but it seems likely that the likes of Sean O'Neill and Aidan Cassidy and other promising talents who were expected to form the spine of the Tyrone team after their last All-Ireland win in 2008, will also not feature in 2013.

“I spoke with Mickey Harte a few weeks ago and he invited me to the trials he was holding,” wrote McGuigan in his Gaelic Life column.

“He felt that if I could commit to it, put in the time required to get myself up to the right level, then there was still a job for me to do”,

“As fate would have it,” he continued, “I was sick for the two weeks the trials were taking place, and that sort of made my mind up for me.”

McGuigan, a pub landlord, husband and father of two, explained how his time constraints meant he was unable to continue balancing his business and an inter-county career.

“When you are running a bar, you need to be there as much as you can.

“People are coming in to see you and to chat with you.

“As well as that, you are trying to keep your costs and overheads down so you're trying to squeeze in the odd extra shift when you can instead of paying someone else to do it.”

He continued, “To expect to play for a team like Tyrone, you need to give it everything.

“Now, more than ever, you need to be out near enough every night of the week, as well as recovery sessions and the likes.

“I simply couldn't do that, and I rang Mickey (pictured right) last week and told him that was the case. He understood.

“I'm coming to the last of my years, and to be able to compete against younger players, you have to be at a serious level of fitness.

“I knew I wasn't in a position to deliver that.”

The clear-out in Tyrone has come as a bit of a surprise, with Mickey Harte having previously faced accusations of blind loyalty to some of his more experienced panel members.

It will not have gone unnoticed that the rise of Donegal has been staffed by the under-21 team that reached an All-Ireland final in 2010, as well as the contributions from veterans such as Neil Gallagher, Rory Kavanagh and Colm McFadden.

With a host of new faces introduced on the Tyrone panel, McGuigan feels that an injection of youthful energy is what is needed.

He also revealed how the Tyrone style of football could now be evolving for next season.

As he explained; “In those phonecalls, Mickey told me that Tyrone were going to be playing a running game next year, a game which requires young legs because it's all action.

“They're the boys who are best equipped to do that in the coming season and over the next few years.

“Mickey has been accused in the past of being too loyal to his older players, but the fact is that Mickey will always do whatever it is he feels he has to do.

“Even if someone has to be dropped for a match, he'll do it without hesitation.

“It doesn't matter who you are or what you've done, he does it.”

McGuigan added that while he will have to get used to the tag of being a ‘former Tyrone footballer', it will sit awkwardly on him for a while.

He also said that the introduction of his clubmate Gavin Devlin into the Tyrone backroom was another strong reason that he regrets not being involved in next year.

He retires with three All-Irelands, two National League titles, four Ulster titles and an All-Star.

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