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Top Ulster trio facing up to their inter-county exits

By John Campbell

Three top Ulster players may well have taken their final bow in the inter-county arena. Mickey Murray (Armagh), Leo McLoone (Donegal) and Joe McMahon (Tyrone) are currently conspicuous by their absence from their squads and may not be seen in their county colours this year - at least.

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney has already confirmed that Murray, who plays with the St Patrick's club that reached this year's county final in which they were beaten by Maghery, is not in his plans.

"He has been injured of late and is out of the equation," states McGeeney, "Obviously there are other players we are hoping to have back in the near future but Mickey is not one of them."

And Leo McLoone's decision to step away from the Donegal squad will come as a setback to manager Rory Gallagher.

Even though he only saw limited action in 2016, McLoone is a strong, combative player whose physical presence has often bolstered the side when the going got tough in the past.

While it is understood that McLoone has not disclosed any specific reason for his decision to call time on his involvement with the county, it is believed that he was unhappy with his recent lack of game time.

Yet at 27, he was thought to still have something to offer a Donegal side which has been shorn of other experienced players lately.

McLoone did not start in any of Donegal's six championship outings during the summer but did come off the bench in three games, including the All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Dublin at Croke Park.

And while there has been speculation about Joe McMahon's ongoing involvement with Tyrone, the fact that he is currently recovering from yet another injury suggests that he may not return to top-flight football.

This year McMahon, now 33, concentrated on activity with his club Omagh St Enda's although his brother Justin was part of Mickey Harte's squad.

A double All-Ireland winner who is also the holder of three Ulster medals, Joe has given magnificent service to Tyrone in the past and Harte is still prepared to give him time to make a complete recovery following which he can then assess his options in relation to the future.

"It may be a little time before Joe is right again but we will wait and see what happens," adds Harte.

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