Revitalised McCurry so glad he took year's break
Even though he felt in his bones that Tyrone could easily win the All-Ireland, attacker Darren McCurry believed he needed to drop off the panel last year to give his mind a rest from the inter-county treadmill.
The Edendork man had been on the Red Hands panel since he was called up for the 2012 season as a 19-year-old, but last March he decided to opt out because of the pressures of work and a lack of hunger.
The break appears to have done him plenty of good as he was in top form in Tyrone's 0-16 to 0-14 McKenna Cup final victory over Armagh on Saturday night, scoring nine points for Mickey Harte's men.
"Leaving was probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make. I had been playing with Tyrone since I was 19," said McCurry.
"But I felt I needed the break. I had lost the hunger for the game and I think leaving last year was a good decision because coming back now I feel I am hungry.
"It's great to be back with the Tyrone boys because you make friends for life."
McCurry spent last summer in Chicago playing for the Parnells club but kept a keen interest in affairs back home as the Red Hands made it to their first All-Ireland decider in 10 years where they were beaten by Dublin.
"Of course I missed it. It was a really hard decision to leave, you have family in there. But I felt it was the right decision and I needed to get my head cleared, just to get my hunger back," he added.
"When you are playing as long as I am, it is tiring on the body and on the mind. I felt like I needed it. Going away to America did that."
He was back in time to watch the final, but could live with his course of action.
"I knew when I made my decision that Tyrone were going to get to the All-Ireland final and maybe win it. But I made my decision based on that. That's how sure I was of it. I knew that there was an All-Ireland in that team and I made my decision based on the belief that they would win an All-Ireland," he said.
After his return, he enjoyed a sparkling Championship with Edendork and after some high-scoring performances knew the time was right to come back into the panel.
He said: "I felt like I had unfinished business here and I wanted to come in and make a difference."
A plumber by profession, the nature of his work has changed too. He explained: "Work has eased up a bit and I am not up the road as much, not really on-site as much.
"I am looking after jobs now. That has played a massive factor in it as well. I'm not down on the hunkers all day. I do stuff a lot of the days and ease up on the training days. I have a wee bit more structure to my week."
With Connor McAliskey - the Championship's second highest-scoring forward from play - having suffered a terrible ankle injury in action for his club Clonoe after the county season and Mark Bradley declaring himself unavailable with studying commitments in England, McCurry is sure to see more game time in the upcoming league season, beginning this Sunday when Tyrone make the long trip to Killarney to face Kerry.
He felt that Saturday night's final was ideal preparation.
"That was like a Championship game," he said. "It reminded me of Tyrone and Armagh in 2012 in my first season. A great buzz, hard-hitting, it was class.
"I am fighting hard every day and whatever Mickey has planned, whatever my job is, I will do it. I want to be playing and starting and getting minutes. I want to be back to the way I was. I feel like I am. I had a good year last year with the club and I am stronger than I ever was, mentally too."