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Tyrone young gun Shay is latest in famous McGuigan family to win silverware

By John Campbell

SHAY McGuigan was a reluctant spectator at the recent Power NI Dr McKenna Cup final.

The Ardboe clubman watched the Tyrone side he had helped reach the decider claim the trophy for a third successive year, thus earning him a much sought-after medal.

But the 20-year-old playmaker is now strongly focused on being at the heart of the action when the Red Hands confront Kildare at Newbridge in Division One of the Allianz League on Sunday.

Like everyone else in the squad, McGuigan is hoping he gets the nod when manager Mickey Harte confirms his line-up after training tonight.

McGuigan's assured style, confident distribution and sharp vision have already marked him down as one of the most exciting prospects in the province but then, as they say, he didn't pick it up off the stones.

His dad is Tyrone legend Frank McGuigan (pictured), whose 11 points from play – five with the right foot, five with the left and one with the fist – in the 1984 provincial final defeat of Tyrone (0-15 to 1-7) still ranks as one of the outstanding scoring feats in the entire history of the championship.

And three of Shay's brothers – Frank jnr, Tommy and Brian – have all garnered Ulster championship medals with Brian having scaled the heights by complementing his four provincial gongs with three All-Ireland medals (2003, 2005 and 2008).

Tommy's more modest one All-Ireland medal and three Ulster awards have been dictated by injury as much as anything else while Frank jnr claimed his one All-Ireland accolade in 2008.

Now Shay becomes the latest member of one of Ireland's most famous football dynasties to hot-foot it along the honours trail.

And the general feeling is that the McKenna Cup honour which has just come his way could prove the forerunner to even more august honours in the not too distant future although the gifted youngster is keeping his feet firmly on the ground.

"Obviously it's a great feeling to have won a medal so early in the year and while I would like to have played in the final, I realise that competition for places has been stepped up an awful lot lately," points out Shay.

"We have several boys who have come back into the squad and we all realise that Mickey Harte can only start 15 players."

When Harte gave him his chance at the start of the year, no one was more flabbergasted than Shay himself.

"I know that there are a lot of good footballers in Tyrone and I reckoned that a huge number were ahead of me in the queue but it's a great feeling to be involved with the squad," he explains.

"I have been able to settle in all right and I suppose you could say that I don't have to go too far to look for advice.

"Brian in particular has been very helpful to me.

"After all, he was a member of the Tyrone squad up until quite recently and he knows how things work."

The rich seam of talent currently at manager Harte's disposal was vividly illustrated when he made no fewer than 11 changes to the team that faced Cavan in the McKenna Cup final from that which beat Mayo in the league on February 9.

The upshot is that a raft of players who have to date enjoyed only limited league action are now straining at the leash to face Kildare.

McGuigan is joined by Ronan O'Neill, P J Lavery, Kyle Coney, Paddy McNeice, Darren McCurry, Conor McAliskey, Mark Donnelly, Mattie Donnelly and Peter Hughes in coveting places up front while Conan Grugan has his eyes on a midfield slot and Ciaran McGinley, Aidan McCrory, Peter Harte and Conor Clarke are anxious to return to the defence.

Kildare manager Jason Ryan, meanwhile, is without a number of his more seasoned troops including top-class defender Peter Kelly and is keen to see his team atone for their recent slip-up against Cork.

Even though Kildare will have home advantage, Ryan concedes that Tyrone will pose a major threat to their ambitions of making headway.

"Mickey Harte's team have made a great start to the season and they won't fear us. They have got good results in recent games against us," observes Ryan.

If the youngest member of the supremely talented McGuigan clan should set a vote of confidence from Harte for Sunday's game, then the chances are that he could play a big role in helping to steer Tyrone into the promotion race given that they already have three points from their first two games.

* Former All Star Richie Power is back as part of the official Kilkenny hurling panel. Power was in a sort of limbo in relation to the squad up to this point, but now he is definitely back in the frame.

The Carrickshock sharpshooter wasn't part of the 40-strong panel involved in group training since late November.

He was left to train on his own.

On at least two occasions he had meetings with management, but only actually rejoined the squad this week.

The 27-year-old has been part of the Kilkenny set-up since 2005.

He has won five All-Irelands, four National Leagues and he has been an All Star twice.

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