Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Carlin out to prove a point for Tyrone

Determined: Tyrone powerhouse Dermot Carlin back in action after injury setbacks

It's a Wednesday night, a rare night off for Tyrone. Only it's not really like that. Back in 2008 There was a 'Monday club', where substitutes would go along and do an extra session.

Numbers kept swelling throughout the year until the majority of the panel were doing it. They finished that season as All-Ireland champions.

Now, the idea of 'extras' comes as standard in this age of inter-county football.

Outside, Kyle Coney and Darren McCurry are practising their free kicks. Inside, Dermot Carlin is after putting down another marker on his return to full fitness.

Asked if he had just spent the last hour lolling around in a Jacuzzi, he shoots an 'I wish' look and answers, "I have a bit of catching up to do!"

He lifted some weights, done some speed work before going on to work as his explosive power with the help of resistance bands.

By now, he is an expert on injury recovery. Last summer, in the midst of the collapse in Killarney, he had to be taken off after six minutes when his right knee buckled.

In January during the second McKenna Cup match against Antrim, he was only on when he went to take a step inside, a team-mate gave an Antrim player a taste of the shoulder and he fell into Carlin, rupturing his medial ligament.

In the Ulster first round against Donegal in two separate accidental clashes with Paddy McBrearty he broke his nose and split the side of his head.

"They got enough blood out of me!" he jokes.

"The head got a bit light and I had to come off. Or maybe it was Paddy skinning me up the line!"

For a while after, people questioned Carlin's pace after McBrearty made a dash up the wing before centring for Ross Wherity to get the crucial second goal in Ballybofey and kill the tie. However, The Sunday Game crew pointed out the lack of runners coming back to protect the Tyrone goal with an interesting camera angle from behind the goals.

He got his nose straightened out and played for his club Killyclogher a few weeks later in a funky 'Phantom of the Opera' style mask. Then it was broken again, Carlin decided to leave it be, and began training in a hurling helmet.

That's the kind of dedication that has granted him a decade in the county squad.

If he seems to have been around forever, it's because he has. Or at least for the full term of Mickey Harte's management anyway.

His senior Championship debut came in the drawn Ulster final of 2003. He retained his place for the replay for next round against Fermanagh, before being dropped as Gavin Devlin's suspension expired and he was drafted back in.

In ways, that has been an unfortunate statistic of his career. He has made 28 Championship appearances in all, half of them as a starter, half of them as a replacement.

Yet think of all the defensive talent that he has played alongside in the past decade who have been in there and for one reason or another, are not there now. The likes of Brian Robinson, Michael McGee, Shane Sweeney, PJ Quinn, Damien McCaul, Marty Swift. In recent times, we think of Aidan McCrory and Danny McBride.

Yet still Carlin remains, a loyal servant who is enjoying the fruits of the quasi-professional era.

He is keen to point out that they may have done more in the past yet now they have reached their first All-Ireland semi-final since 2009.

A big part of that has been the form of Sean Cavanagh (below) and he does not avoid the fact that it was his own slip that allowed Conor McManus a sight of goal before Cavanagh had to commit a necessary evil.

In a local derby against Omagh almost a fortnight ago, he recalls two such tackles being made and although he won't mention names, there wasn't much fuss about it.

This Sunday, Mayo stand between Tyrone and a place in the final. They would dearly have loved to have met Donegal to even up the score. It was a promise they made to themselves on that horrible evening in Ballybofey.

"We were going to put ourselves in the position that if the opportunity arose, yes, we would have been ready for them," he added.

"This happened us before that maybe when a team beat us before we said to ourselves, right, huddle up, we are going to get back at them.

"Years gone by we might not have fulfilled our side of the bargain, but this year we did get there.

"But you can't wait on other teams, you have to beat whoever is there. It's Mayo this time, and they will be a mighty task, definitely."

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