Tiernan McCann has become the fifth Tyrone player to opt out of inter-county football for 2022.
In what many outsiders will perceive as a worrying player exodus for the All-Ireland champions, McCann has now followed the lead of Ronan O’Neill, Mark Bradley, Hugh Pat McGeary and Michael Cassidy by stepping away.
The dynamic wing-back made his SFC debut in 2014 and was a regular starter under Mickey Harte, renowned for his athleticism even while prone to getting embroiled in the occasional on-field disciplinary scrape.
Injury issues have limited his game-time more recently. However, he still featured in all bar one of Tyrone’s five championship outings last summer, coming off the bench at half-time against Cavan and Donegal and playing a significant cameo against Kerry in the semi-final before making an injury-time appearance against Mayo in the final.
McCann was particularly influential against Donegal, clipping 0-3 from play. He was named at No 6 for the Ulster final against Monaghan but was one of several late withdrawals from a match-day squad impacted by Covid issues.
The Killyclogher clubman, who will turn 31 in May, would have been viewed as a player still with plenty to offer the joint-managerial team of Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher – and not just for his experience.
The All-Ireland champions will kickstart their Allianz League Division 1 campaign next Sunday at home to Monaghan, who’ll be returning to Omagh just eight days after winning the Dr McKenna Cup at the same venue, where they edged out Donegal on Saturday.
Perhaps, not surprisingly, the Red Hands have made a sluggish start to the new season: they were annihilated by Cavan and then lost more narrowly to Armagh in their two McKenna Cup group games.
Losing so much experience, even from their bench options, could potentially leave Tyrone stretched as the league gets under way.
Last week, in confirming his decision to step away, attacker Mark Bradley was effusive in his praise of Logan and Dooher.
“They have been very supportive to me and respect my decision,” he said
“They have done unreal work for Tyrone and hopefully that will continue.
“It would be some achievement if the squad can go on to win back-to-back All-Irelands. It’s not a decision that I have taken lightly but, having taken time away before to study and play football in the States, I have come to realise that there is much more to life than just being in the bubble that is county football.”
Meanwhile, John Small will be available for Dublin’s opening foray in this year’s Allianz Football League – despite his red card against Laois in Saturday’s O’Byrne Cup decider.
This is because suspensions accruing from pre-season tournaments such as the O’Byrne Cup don’t carry over into the national league.
Instead, in the likely event of a one-match ban, the Ballymun defender will be ineligible for Dublin’s opening O’Byrne Cup fixture (if the competition survives) in 2023.
This is a welcome break for Dessie Farrell as he seeks to continue Dublin’s early-season winning run in Croke Park on Saturday evening, when they face Armagh in Division 1 of the NFL.