Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Tyrone star Stephen showing mettle

Tyrone’s Stephen O'Neill (left) flew the flag for Ulster at the official launch of the 2010 GAA Football Championship. He was joined by Mayo's Trevor Mortimer, Kerry's Micheal Quirke, Cork's Michael Shields and Dublin's Alan Brogan

Iron man training will ensure former Footballer of the Year, Stephen O’Neill, is ready for the championship fray this summer.

O’Neill missed most of Tyrone’s ill-fated Division 1 campaign after dislocating his elbow in a McKenna Cup clash with Donegal in late January, the latest in a succession of injuries which have plagued his career.

Tyrone sources have indicated that in the mean time former All Ireland winner O’Neill is training harder than ever.

A close friend and training partner will take part in an iron man contest in Austria in two months time and O’Neill is being dragged along in his slipstream.

The brilliant attacker has long term knee problems, which means his training is tailored.

The less impact on his knees the better and racking up the miles on the bike is perfect for that.

O’Neill said: “My left knee is grand. It's not 100 per cent, but it is what it is. I manage it in training and look after it as best I can.

“I try to get out on the pitch as much as I can, but there's times when it flares up and it's sore and I just need an extra days rest instead of training.

“I do a bit of cycling and that keeps my fitness level up.

“I cycle with a few fellas and one is very keen. He's training for an iron man in Austria in a couple of months time and he's doing big miles now.”

O’Neill played his first game in three months at the weekend and came through it successfully.

The return of the current all-star forward is a major boost to Tyrone’s chances, particularly as they face a tricky Ulster championship opener against last season’s runners-up Antrim on May 23 at Casement Park.

Tyrone may have been relegated, but they fielded for the entire league without O’Neill and captain Brian Dooher.

On top of this Sean Cavanagh and Philip Jordan only came in for the latter stages of their Division 1 campaign, while the likes of Peter Harte and Aidan Cassidy have staked claims for a starting spot.

It is certainly not all doom and gloom in the O’Neill county.

They are a different proposition with O’Neill on the inside line, as it allows Cavanagh to play further out the field and attack from deep.

He has bounced back though and at just the right time for Tyrone.

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