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Darren McCurry relishing his hands-on role at Tyrone

In-form Tyrone hotshot can't wait to get back into action against rivals Donegal

By John Campbell

When Tyrone manager Mickey Harte conducted an overview of his team's Allianz League campaign, which ended in relegation to Division Two, he was still able to pinpoint positives as he fixed his sights on the Ulster Championship.

It was only a last-gasp failure to squeeze past Kerry in the final match of the competition that saw Tyrone's passport to the lower regions of the league stamped while the impressive consistency displayed by a handful of players, including the rejuvenated Cathal McCarron and the emerging Padraig McNulty, afforded considerable cause for satisfaction.

But an even greater source of encouragement ahead of Sunday's all-important Ulster Championship preliminary round tie against Donegal is the spectacular form of sharpshooter Darren McCurry.

The Edendork clubman proved to be one of the most consistent players for Harte during the league and his 1-29 haul reflects his sublime accuracy from frees and play.

Yet while McCurry's form offers a substantial ray of light in relation to the Ballybofey showdown, the name that immediately follows his in the league list of scoring hotshots will send a tremor through the Tyrone faithful.

Donegal's Paddy McBrearty, who was outstanding during the league even though his team's form was patchy, pocketed an impressive 1-28 in the competition and not surprisingly is, along with his skipper Michael Murphy, viewed as a major threat to the Red Hands' hopes of booking a quarter-final place against their deadly rivals Armagh.

McCurry, though, far from being fazed at the prospect of shouldering another massive scoring burden, is clearly relishing the prospect of locking horns once again with last year's beaten All-Ireland finalists.

"We may be going into this game with our backs against the wall because Donegal are the reigning Ulster champions but we have faith in our own ability," said McCurry.

"I thought that we played fairly well in most of our league games even though we ultimately got relegated. It was maybe a lack of experience that cost us a few games, particularly those which ended up as draws which we should have won, but we now have a big chance against Donegal to redeem ourselves."

Even though he is playing in a rather deep-lying role within the Tyrone side, McCurry's ability to get forward at pace and trouble opposing defences has been one of the team's key weapons this year.

This will be his fourth Ulster Championship and he is clearly anxious to see Tyrone regain the Anglo-Celt Cup, believing as he does that the team as a whole is now capable of delivering on its potential given the enormity of the occasion.

"There are plenty of good players who are coming through well. For my own part, I feel I have got stronger and more mature and I like to think that I am playing well. This Tyrone side is a nice mixture of old and young players and I'm happy with my game because I've been working hard," states McCurry.

The Red Hands' work-rate and the necessity for the forwards to back-track and act as extra defenders is very much part of their overall strategy but McCurry certainly has no objection to putting in the hard yards.

"Everybody has to put in the work, there's no doubt about that," he maintains.

"This is what is required for the team to have any chance of winning. It's about spreading the work-load evenly over the side.

"The backs mostly don't get enough credit for the job that they do. Being a defender and having to work as hard as they do is very tough - it's not as tough to have to simply kick the ball over the bar, after all - but we are all in it together and we have to pull our weight for the common cause."

Belfast Telegraph


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