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Tyrone can always count on Gormley

By John Campbell

Conor Gormley played his 70th championship match for Tyrone when they beat Meath in the fourth round of the All-Ireland qualifiers last weekend.

And if his present form is to be taken as a gauge, the Carrickmore clubman looks destined to remain in the side for some time to come even though he has already celebrated his 32nd birthday.

Since making his debut at right-full-back against Armagh in the Ulster Championship in 2002, he has enjoyed the distinction of having never been dropped.

Indeed, injury forced him to miss two championship matches in the 11-year stint he has served in the county colours and with three All-Ireland medals, four Ulster C gongs and three All-Star awards in his locker his labours have been adequately rewarded.

But the quiet-spoken Gormley is as focused on success now as he was when he was introduced as a fledgling defender by the then manager Art McRory.

And it's hardly surprising that he has been handed a key role by manager Mickey Harte for tomorrow's quarter-final against new Ulster champions Monaghan, a match that has generated unparalleled interest throughout Ulster.

Yet Gormley remains unflappable, conscious that his side faces a big challenge against a rejuvenated team that has soared to new heights lately.

Tyrone's victories over the Farney side in the 2007 and 2010 Ulster finals will, he maintains, count for nothing in the context of tomorrow's game.

"That's all in the past, you can't put much store by it," insists Gormley. "This is a whole new ball game. Following the retirements of some of our more experienced players, Mickey Harte reconstructed the side and it has been a case of so far, so good."

While the word retirement might have had considerable resonance for players such as Brian Jordan, Peter Canavan, Philip Jordan, Kevin Hughes and Enda McGinley, Gormley has not entertained the notion of slipping into the shadows.

"It has never been in my mind to retire. You just keep coming back until the body tells you not to I suppose," he muses smilingly.

"Every year when Tyrone finish in the championship, I get stuck in with my club and that keeps me going for the winter.

"Then I get a bit of rest before heading back in January to Tyrone if I get the call from Mickey.

"So it has never crossed my mind so far to walk away."

Gormley's consistency ensures that his name is one of the first pencilled in by Harte.

"You could not ask for a more competitive or dedicated player than Conor," states Harte. "He has given Tyrone great service and hopefully he will be around for some time to come."

To date this season, Gormley's experience and guile have underpinned the Red Hands' defence although he is the first to recognise that the side has won its last three games by two-point margins.

"Tomorrow's match against Monaghan could be even closer than this," suggests Gormley.

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