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Cathal McShane's call to snub AFL move a major boost for Tyrone

Cathal McShane

Timing can often prove crucial in sport and Cathal McShane's decision to make himself available once again to the Tyrone team rather than pursue a career in Australian Rules Football with Adelaide Crows could not prove more opportune from a Red Hands perspective.

The player's preference to continue to represent his club and county brings the curtain down on several weeks of speculation that at one stage had him signed up by the Brisbane Lions for a six-figure salary.

In the real world, with unbeaten Kerry due to arrive at Healy Park, Omagh on Sunday hoping to extend their surge to a possible league title, McShane's presence in the squad is certain to prove the ideal tonic for Tyrone boss Mickey Harte.

His team may have hurdled an inept Meath outfit but a 1-12 to 0-11 final score merely masked their overall inefficiency against a spirited Monaghan last weekend at Castleblayney.

With Kerry having drawn with Dublin and beaten Galway, they will come to Omagh hoping to enter the mid-league break boasting an unbeaten record.

But the possibility that McShane could get a sliver of game time is calculated to trigger palpitations within the ranks of Peter Keane's side, who found the Tyrone hotshot difficult to contain in last year's All-Ireland semi-final in which he scored 0-7 (three frees).

It was McShane's stunning solo show in that game that climaxed his spectacular season in Tyrone's colours and ensured that confirmation of his many-sided talents were brought more forcibly to the attention of other sports.

McShane emerged as the top scorer in last season's All-Ireland Championship with 3-50 to his credit, a feat that helped to earn him a coveted All-Star award and which placed him head and shoulders above every other forward on the island.

His Tyrone colleague Ronan McNamee, who is understood to be doubtful for Sunday's game against Kerry, claimed a similar honour.

Harte, meanwhile, has steadfastly refused to believe all along the line that McShane's perceived departure was a done deal and less than a week ago reiterated his belief that "no agreement has been signed".

Speculation may have wafted all round him but Harte time and again insisted that McShane's future was in his own hands as he awaited his decision.

Now, having welcomed his nephew Peter Harte back into the side following an extended honeymoon in New Zealand and hailed Tiernan McCann's return to action, McShane's availability will further bolster the Tyrone manager's spirits as the league begins to hot up.

Mattie Donnelly, Michael McKernan, Padraig Hampsey and Ritchie Donnelly are among the Tyrone players still out because of injury while Mark Bradley was red-carded against Monaghan last weekend but with Darren McCurry, Kyle Coney, Ronan O'Neill and Frank Burns in particular having re-invented themselves in the Red Hand attack in recent weeks, the addition of McShane will surely lend a further infusion of considerable firepower to the front line.

It is believed that McShane attended Tyrone training last night and it is also understood that he has been keeping himself sharp with his club Owen Roes.

The 24-year-old target man, who has played a leading role in the evolution of Tyrone's strategy, has confirmed that the opportunity to pursue new employment with Keystone (Lentils) was a significant factor in influencing him to remain in Tyrone.

McShane won the Quinn Building Products Ulster GAA Writers' Association award for his outstanding performances last August.

"I love the full-forward position," he enthused then. "I think the move has worked well. I like roving around the attack and I feel the position suits me."

He is poised to return to a Tyrone side that has not only some leeway to make up in the league but which also harbours ambitions of reclaiming the Ulster title which they last won in 2017.

Donegal, indeed, are aiming to make it a hat-trick of provincial triumphs this year but the presence of a fully-fit McShane in the Tyrone attack could see Declan Bonner's men tripped up in their bid to attain this goal.

While the GAA now gets to retain one of its stellar players, it will do well to fully digest the last sentence of the views of Adelaide Crows general manager Justin Reid, who said: "It is a big decision to relocate to the other side of the world and pursue a professional career in a different sport. Ultimately, this was not something that Cathal was ready for and we wish him the very best in his endeavours both on and off the field.

"We will continue to look for opportunities to bring talent into our club."

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