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Tyrone's Justin McMahon is step for glory

By John Campbell

Tyrone full-back Justin McMahon is nothing if not versatile — and his talents are certainly not confined to the football arena.

The 23-year-old defender is not only bidding to add an All Ireland medal to the Ulster Championship gong which he has already pocketed but he is busy practising for a forthcoming ‘Strictly Come Ceili’ dancing spectacular at The Mellon Country Hotel in his home town of Omagh on October 16.

Justin is one of several local celebrities who will be competing in the event which is being organised by the St Enda’s club and his tutor Tracey Cassidy is already convinced that his nifty footwork could take him to success.

“Justin has great co-ordination and balance. He’s showing a great aptitude for dancing,” says Tracey.

But right now it’s Saturday’s All Ireland quarter-final showdown with Dublin at Croke Park that is uppermost in Justin’s mind, particularly after he watched Eoghan O’Gara, the man he is most likely to be marking, bang in

two goals for the Dubs in their handsome qualifier win over Louth last Saturday.

“I certainly hope he won’t be dancing round me on Saturday,” quips Justin.

“Seriously, though, Dublin have been hitting form at the right time and they are coming in against us having won three qualifier games on the trot in which they showed a lot of finishing power.”

When the sides met in the last game of the National League at Healy Park, Omagh it was Dublin who called all the shots, with their forward power contributing in no small measure to the Red Hand’s demotion to Division Two.

“They were out of the traps very quickly that day and we were always chasing the game. But we have been improving over the course of the Ulster Champi

onship and that win in the final over Monaghan has done our confidence no harm at all,” observes Justin.

O’Gara, a new kid on the block, along with the consistently accurate Bernard Brogan is capable of posing big problems for a Tyrone defence in which Justin’s brother Joe is currently employed as a sweeper even though he is invariably listed at left-half-forward in the line-up.

“Joe has certainly been taking the weight of us boys at the back so far and we are thankful for that.

“He’s very experienced and reads situations well,” says Justin, now regarded as one of the top three full-backs in the country.

Yet Joe, like his brother the epitome of modesty, is quick to play down his own role in the side.

“When you are in there alongside players like Sean Cavanagh, Brian Dooher, Kevin Hughes, Conor Gormley, Philly Jordan and the rest the job tends to be made easy for you,” says Joe.

And would he himself consider embarking on the ‘Strictly Come Ceili’ trail?

“No way,” he laughs, “Justin’s the one in the family with twinkle toes.

“He fancies himself as a bit of a dancer but I just hope that all Tyrone fans are dancing with delight on Saturday evening!”

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