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Clarke in shape after injury nightmare

By Declan Bogue

Tyrone defender Conor Clarke has admitted that a change in approach to his training has helped bring him back from his injury hell.

Back in June 2014, Clarke ruptured his cruciate in a club match for Omagh against Coalisland.

Although he was to return at the very end of their run to the Ulster club final - which they lost thanks to a late scoring burst from Slaughtneil - he spent most of 2015 battling without much success to regain his place on the Red Hands side.

However, he revealed that a talk with the Tyrone medical team led to his trimmed-down, lean and agile look sported during Tyrone's O'Fiaich Cup win over Louth on Sunday.

"I sat down and realised that it wasn't all about weights," the St Enda's man revealed. "Because of what happened, I was on my own when I did my knee and I got caught up in the thinking that it was weak at the start, whereas it was a freak incident.

"I got caught up in thinking that I needed to build it all back up and probably went too hard at it. I suppose I was in the gym so much I was neglecting the gym side. It was easy to see that if you looked in, I was in a bubble and couldn't see it.

"It took a while to sit down with a few of the guys and we came to a conclusion. I then knew what had to be done and the changes that had to be made."

He admitted that he struggled with the prospect of getting so little gametime as Tyrone made it to an All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Kerry.

"Was it difficult?" he asked himself. "Is the sky blue?

"It hurt a lot at the end of last year, coming back in, trying to get up to speed with the lads. I suppose in my head, I felt I should have been further on, but that wasn't the reality.

"Looking back, we travelled a good distance last year but we came back with nothing. We looked at that, we will be looking at it next year and hoping to go a bit further."

After a certain length of recovery, Clarke's knee felt stronger than before and he moved on to an intense programme of working on mobility, agility and speed.

On Sunday, Tyrone had eight starters who have not played Championship football but many of whom were on the Under-21 team that won the All-Ireland this year.

Clarke hailed their input and said: "They have brought a serious freshness and enthusiasm to the group.

"Not that we are not enthusiastic anyway as we made the All-Ireland semi and bad teams do not make the All-Ireland semis.

"We are lucky that there is such a cohesion in that Under-21 team. They have brought that through to the seniors and we are feeding off it."

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