McAliskey's surprise return is super boost for Clonoe glory bid
Connor McAliskey, one of Ulster's top forwards, was resigned to spending a full year on the sidelines after he suffered a devastating torn cruciate ligament injury during Tyrone's loss to Cavan in the Dr McKenna Cup back in January.
The Clonoe clubman had bounced into 2017 with renewed vigour, determined to impress further in both club and county colours.
Instead, the 25-year-old forward, one of the most polished finishers in the game today, has spent the last eight months recovering from what has been the most serious setback in his playing career.
But his patience, resolve and staying power have brought their own rewards now that he has not only made a full recovery but has resumed playing much sooner than had been expected.
Last weekend he was sent in as a substitute for Clonoe against Trillick, and now he is strongly focused on enjoying some degree of game time against Dromore in an important Tyrone championship shoot-out at Carrickmore on Sunday.
They are among the seven teams who have landed the county title in the last seven years which underlines just how intriguing and competitive the series is year on year.
For McAliskey, participation in the county championship comes as an unexpected bonus given that he missed Tyrone's entire league and championship campaign this term.
Yet far from being morose and regretful, McAliskey is anxious to make up for lost time as Clonoe prepare for a full-frontal assault on the title which they last won in 2013.
"When I got the injury, I pledged to myself that I would try and work my way back.
"There was no point in feeling sorry for myself, I just had to get on with it and that's what happened," reveals McAliskey.
"My plan was to come back bigger and stronger than ever. That has still to be proved, of course, but I feel I am on the right track now."
McAliskey's sooner than expected return represents not just a personal boost but is also a timely fillip for his side that includes Tyrone squad members Declan McClure and Michael O'Neill.
Clonoe will go in against a Dromore side that includes Red Hands regulars Cathal McCarron and Niall Sludden.
The Tyrone championship race is viewed as being wide open which is hardly surprising given the number of destinations at which the trophy has resided since 2010.
Meanwhile, holders Killyclogher will take the first step in the defence of their title when they meet Pomeroy tomorrow.
Pomeroy certainly hit the high spots when they won the Ulster Intermediate Club Championship last year, and now they get the chance to flex their muscles in the hugely competitive Tyrone Senior Championship - and against the top side too.
Killyclogher will look to Tiernan and Conall McCann along with Mark Bradley, while Kieran McGeary and Frank Burns can inspire Pomeroy.