Why Cathal McShane deserves an All-Star as Tyrone man could land historic treble
When Cathal McShane was pushed into a frontline attacking role by Tyrone manager Mickey Harte earlier this year, he viewed the move as an opportunity to bed down his place in the side.
With Mark Bradley and Ronan O'Neill having made themselves unavailable, Harte had rather more limited resources at his disposal, but the manner in which 23-year-old McShane has repaid the faith shown in him by his triple All-Ireland winning boss has been nothing short of spectacular.
The modest and unassuming McShane is unlikely to throw bouquets my way for pinpointing his current status, but the fact of the matter is that the popular Owen Roe O'Neill's clubman has the potential to land what would be a phenomenal treble.
He is short-odds favourite to emerge as overall top scorer in this Championship season, an All-Ireland medal is a possibility and an All-Star award would surely be a richly deserved individual honour.
Yet one word still tends to underpin McShane's whole approach to his role, and that is patience.
In the immediate aftermath of Tyrone's Ulster Championship quarter-final win over Derry at Healy Park, Omagh back in May, a match in which he landed 0-7, McShane gave an insight into the philosophy that has continued to govern his high-profile role.
"I am just keeping my head down and trying to improve my game," said McShane.
"I know I have to show patience but the other players in the team are doing the hard work by winning the ball and then trying to get it up to me."
Now with a mammoth 3-42 to his credit and Tyrone assured of at least two more Championship matches, McShane is within touching distance of taking top spot in the leading scorers chart.
Three other Ulster players - his Tyrone colleague Peter Harte (1-31) and Donegal duo Patrick McBrearty (1-24) and Michael Murphy (1-22) - are also among the leading scorers but McShane is clearly in pole position to finish ahead of the field.
Earlier this month, Mayo's Cillian O'Connor broke Kerry legend Colm Cooper's all-time Championship scoring record by bringing his overall haul to 23-285 in just 52 games, but McShane, far from being consumed by statistics, is only concerned with ensuring that Tyrone continue to progress on their Championship journey.
And this is where that word 'patience' again comes into play.
"We knew in our two most recent games against Roscommon and Cork that we would have to be patient," points out McShane.
"I think in the second-half of both games the boys stood up and showed what they are capable of.
"We were patient when we needed to be but we were also ruthless when we had to be. I think it's all down to hard work on the training ground. I am still working on my shooting as I want to be more clinical and I know the other boys feel the same way."
McShane is looking forward to returning to Healy Park, Omagh on Sunday week where Tyrone will face a Dublin side which, in the eyes of many, are certainties to win their fifth All-Ireland Championship title on the trot.
But although there will not be a lot at stake in this particular game, given that both sides are already through to the All-Ireland semi-finals, McShane is anxious to see his side remain in their winning groove.
"When we went into our first Super8s game against Roscommon, we knew it was vital to get two points on the board, and now that we have followed that up with the win over Cork we have reached the All-Ireland semi-finals, but you like to retain a winning mentality," stresses McShane.
Meanwhile, Donegal fans have been disappointed to learn that the capacity at Elvery's McHale Park, Castlebar for their team's All-Ireland Super8s showdown with Mayo on Saturday week has been reduced by 6,000.
It is understood that this is for safety reasons and now, instead of hosting a 30,000-plus crowd, the venue will cater for a ceiling attendance of 25,000.
It's a must-win match for both teams and is expected to be a high-octane contest between two teams desperate to end Dublin's All-Ireland title monopoly.
Kerry and Meath, who are also in their Super8s group, will meet in Navan where the Kingdom are expected to seal their semi-final slot.