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Tiarnan McCann all set to ruffle Dromore’s feathers

By John Campbell

Just over a year ago Tiarnan McCann was one of the most pilloried participants in Irish sport. The Tyrone defender appeared to incur the wrath of the entire country following his split-second decision to plunge to the ground after Monaghan’s Darren Hughes ruffled his hair in the first minute of added time in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

Hughes was red-carded and subsequently handed an eight-week ban while McCann was denounced on all sides.

But all’s well that ends well. The Central Hearings Committee wisely overturned the ban imposed on Hughes, Tyrone and Monaghan exited the All-Ireland series with much less fanfare and the world remained on its axis.

Tomorrow night McCann, currently playing the best football of his career, hopes to take another step towards what would be his fifth team honour of the season when he lines out with Killyclogher against Dromore in the Tyrone Senior Football Championship semi-final at Healy Park, Omagh (8.30pm).

The dynamic wing-back has already shared in Tyrone’s O’Fiaich Cup, McKenna Cup, Division Two title and Ulster Championship crown successes but is clearly intent on further embellishing his trophy cupboard.

If the world and its wife riled against McCann in August 2015, then Tyrone boss Mickey Harte stood firmly behind him.

“Tiarnan is a fine young man, a wonderful footballer,” proclaimed Harte at the time.

His implacable faith in McCann coupled with the player’s own strength of character have not only seen him already earn selection on a best 2016 Ulster XV earlier this month but have fortified the belief that he will be part of Tyrone’s considerable arsenal for some time to come.

For now, though, the modest, softly-spoken McCann is strongly focused on helping to take Killyclogher to what would be their first county championship title since 2003.

The flame of ambition is burning brightly within a club that suffered heartbreak when they lost by a point to Trillick in last year’s decider.

Dromore, though, form a massive barrier to their aspiration of making it into another final.

Laden with quality players such as Niall Sludden, Cathal McCarron and Ronan McNabb and bolstered by championship success in 2007, 2009 and 2011, they are poised to put Killyclogher to the test.

“The semi-finals of the championship are where you want to be at this time of the year,” reflects pharmacist McCann.

“We are facing a fine Dromore side that has tasted championship glory at regular intervals in recent years.

“We are going into the game in good enough form having beaten teams like Errigal Ciaran and the reigning champions Trillick but we still have to deliver on the day.”

McCann’s talented brother Conal, who is also a member of the Tyrone squad, along with exciting young playmaker Mark Bradley can help provide further impetus for the team’s bid to reach the decider against either Coalisland or Clonoe who will meet in the other semi-final on Sunday at Edendork (4.30pm).

“In a lot of games this year Killyclogher, like other clubs, did not have their county players but now the team as a whole appears to be hitting form at just the right time,” insists McCann.

“For us, it’s all about progressing and trying to keep that winning momentum going.

“The Tyrone Championship is always fiercely contested. Up until just recently we were looking at a situation where any one of eight or nine teams could have been deemed as possible champions but now that this has been whittled down to four the pressure is really on,” added McCann.

Meanwhile, Ulster Under-21 football champions Monaghan will play Antrim in the first round of next year’s competition.

The Saffrons’ hurlers will take on Antrim, with Armagh and Down in the other semi-final.

Ulster U21 Football quarter-final: Tyrone v Donegal, Fermanagh v Cavan, Armagh v Down, Derry v Antrim or Monaghan.

Ulster U21 Football semi-final: Tyrone or Donegal v Fermanagh or Cavan;  Armagh or Down v Derry or Antrim or Monaghan.

Ulster U21 Hurling Championship semi-final draw: Derry v Antrim and Armagh v Down.

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