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Fired-up McShane leads from front as Tyrone eye more progress in bid for Ulster title glory

Antrim v Tyrone, Ulster SFC First Round: Athletic Grounds, Saturday, 6.00pm

On form: Cathal McShane is hitting the high spots
On form: Cathal McShane is hitting the high spots
John Campbell

By John Campbell

When Cathal McShane was pushed into an out and out striker's role by Tyrone manager Mickey Harte earlier this year, it was to prove a master stroke.

With skipper Mattie Donnelly and the vastly experienced Peter Harte playing rather deeper, but nonetheless providing the necessary ammunition for the rangy McShane, the Red Hands began to carry a more lethal threat.

In winning their last two league games against Dublin and Galway and then overcoming Derry in the preliminary round of the Ulster Championship, the Red Hands positively revelled up front.

McShane has proved a revelation in his new, unfettered role which allows him to remain close to the opposition posts for the most part and thrive on possession that comes his way.

He certainly did this against Derry by landing seven points - two frees - and is looking forward to continuing his scoring exploits against Antrim at the Athletic Grounds on Saturday (6pm).

"Even though we beat Derry we know there are areas in which we can improve," insists perfectionist McShane.

"It's a matter of us keeping our focus and trying to do things well. Some days they come off for you and some days they don't.

"I try my best to do my job by sticking to the game plan. But it's tough work and you just have to be patient."

It's McShane's perseverance, commitment and courage which have helped to transform him into one of the most lethal finishers in the game.

Antrim may have cause to be grateful that the offensive 'mark' which was deployed during the league is not being applied in the Championship.

It was McShane's ability to snap up possession from long-ball deliveries by his colleagues that brought Tyrone a raft of scores in the league from 'marks'.

"It's maybe that little bit harder to get scores in the Championship but that's a challenge I relish," insists McShane.

"Obviously it's good to have the preliminary round game behind us but, while we won it, that does not guarantee us anything in connection with this Saturday's game.

"We know that Antrim will be keen to build on their league form and we also know how the matches have gone in the Championship to date, with the favourites not always coming through.

"I'm just keeping my head up and working as part of the team," he says.

"On different days different players can step up to the mark, but the important thing is that the team comes out on top.

"Antrim are the only side on our radar right now and we are certainly taking nothing for granted against them.

"They will feel they have a big point to make."

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