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Tyrone boss Mickey Harte still hopeful as Cathal McShane yet to pen Aussie deal

Scouting trip: Tyrone ace Cathal McShane is off to Australia on trial
Scouting trip: Tyrone ace Cathal McShane is off to Australia on trial
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

Tyrone's current All-Star full-forward Cathal McShane's links with a move to Australian Rules are not as strong as originally suggested.

Media reports had linked him to a move to Brisbane Lions with a contract already agreed, reported to be a six-figure annual salary.

However, Adelaide Crows have confirmed that the Owen Roes clubman will join their pre-season training, with no promise of a contract offered.

The Crows' website notes that general manager of list management and strategy, Justin Reid, has confirmed the club will fly the 24-year-old to Australia in the coming weeks.

"We're looking forward to Cathal joining our pre-season training programme and getting to know him a bit better," Reid said.

"He has the physical attributes, coming in at a touch over 190cm (6ft 2in). He's also strong in the air and can kick with both feet.

"Once he lands in Adelaide, it'll provide the opportunity to understand more about our club, our philosophies and what our programme looks like."

Barry Tracey has been his club manager at Owen Roes, Leckpatrick for the last three years and has gained a real insight into his improvements and development as the club has progressed out of junior to intermediate level.

"All I have been told is that he has been offered the chance to go for a couple of weeks to do some testing and do a pre-season," Tracey said.

"Of course, if you did happen to like it and something developed out of it, then you want to experience something different. I experienced playing in America, and a lot of others did for a short period of time, but you always want to go back to your club.

"For somebody like Cathal, if it did develop into something more, it is very hard to turn your nose up at it, and I did say that to the lad."

He continued: "The professional lifestyle, all Cathal wants to do is train, go to the gym, train, play football.

"But I would be at pains to point out that he is at the pinnacle of his game with Tyrone, he is well known throughout Ireland and with Tyrone supporters all over the world, and you could be taking a gamble going to play reserve or rookie football, maybe not make it and come back maybe not the same Cathal McShane that you left as.

"On the flipside of that, trying to advise what is best for him, it is up to the young fella to choose what he thinks and it is his prerogative at the end of the day."

Tracey dismissed the chances of clubs such as Owen Roes being in some way financially compensated for the loss of a player such as McShane, who comes along once in a generation in smaller clubs.

"There are guys who switch over to play rugby and soccer. Gaelic football is an amateur sport for players, as far as they are concerned. The lads are not contracted," he pointed out.

"To me, it's difficult to say. How do you compensate a club? I know as coaching officer at Greencastle you want players to go through the under-age system, into your reserves and then seniors, but a lot of the time through work and emigration they might move on. You can't control that anyway."

He added: "From speaking to him, he is going to dip his toe in the water, that's what I got out of it.

"From my understanding, because it's out there now, when I spoke to him, I said I respected that he gave me a call but I assume he had been on to Mickey Harte.

"Leaving Owen Roes is one thing, and it would have a big impact on your club, but this is Tyrone, you are a nationally-known player, you are an All-Star, and it is a big impact on the county of Tyrone.

"I'm sure if anyone is going to convince you then it will be Mickey and what the Tyrone thing can offer you."

Harte remains hopeful he can retain McShane, who earned his first All-Star last year after a somewhat career-changing positional switch to full-forward.

However, he also gave a clue as to how tenuous the links may actually be when speaking after Tyrone's Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup win over Cavan on Sunday.

"Cathal is on his way temporarily, I would suggest, going out to see if that is something that he wants to do. He has not made any final decision yet one way or the other," said Harte.

"As long as he has not made the decision to go there, then I would still hold reasonable hope that he could still be playing football for Tyrone this year. But if he makes his decision to go then that's his prerogative to do so.

"I have given Cathal my views on what I thought in my heart and soul would be best for his career both on and off the field. The very simple answer to that is that I thought it would be best served by him being here.

"He has to take that on board and look at what may be on offer elsewhere. He has to make that final decision and I respect him for that. I'd be speaking to him on an ongoing basis.

"He is going out there to examine the situation for himself, but he hasn't signed anything yet and, until he does, I would still be optimistic that he could still be a Tyrone player this year."

Harte also bemoaned the practice of AFL clubs scouting for the best Gaelic football has to offer having already lost talented prospect Conor McKenna, who is with Essendon Bombers, a few years ago.

"It would be well known that I would not be a fan of Gaelic players being scooped by the AFL and it's a bit sad, I think, that this used to be the job of unknown scouts from Australia, but now it's actually ex-GAA people from Ireland who are actually scouting our players to take them away to another league which is of no benefit to us whatsoever," added Harte.

"It's one-way staff, loss-loss for us and it doesn't make much sense to me that we would still engage officially with that outfit while this goes on.

"It saddens me to say the least and I hope that somebody somewhere sees the nonsense of what we're doing and cuts ties with them."

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