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Cathal McShane: It had been 503 days since my last game for Tyrone… it’s so good to be back

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Cathal McShane

Cathal McShane

©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Cathal McShane

Cathal McShane

©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Cathal McShane

Cathal McShane

©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Cathal McShane

Cathal McShane

©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

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Cathal McShane

When Cathal McShane was despatched into the action from the substitutes’ bench to assist Tyrone in last weekend’s Ulster Championship Quarter-Final tie, he had been expected to stamp his own particular imprint on the contest.

And McShane certainly did not disappoint. He may only have got the green light to enter the fray in the 47th minute but between that and the end of the game McShane helped himself to three points, provided several clever passes and even found time to consolidate in midfield and help out in defence.

Not a bad afternoon’s work by any standards and it’s hardly surprising that McShane can hardly wait for today’s provincial Semi-Final against Donegal to get under way.

He has good reason for wanting to dive into the action. A serious leg injury sustained against Galway in an Allianz League game at Tuam last February was initially thought to have threatened McShane’s career before a lengthy rehabilitation process ultimately saw him regain full fitness.

Even since then his return to the furnace that is Ulster Championship football was carefully choreographed but now, infused with a rampant hunger to further his career and see Tyrone scale the heights again, McShane is consumed by a desire simply to play.

The 2019 All-Star is still ranked among the best forwards on the island when in full flight and he sees today as another important step in recalibrating his career.

“It was just good to get back playing again and to get a decent win against Cavan. To be honest we were only concerned with getting a victory, especially after the disappointment the team suffered in the League game against Kerry,” points out McShane.

“The boys have backed me all the way, I’ve had so much good support. I think it was something like 503 days up until last Saturday since my last game for the county.”

The Owen Roes clubman’s all-action style and voracious appetite for scores have earned him praise far beyond the boundaries of the O’Neill County but McShane is in no doubt as to what he sees as a priority.

“Let’s just say we had an indifferent League campaign and that defeat to Kerry was hard for us all to take,” reflects McShane. “But we really want to engage overdrive if we can. When you looked at the way Donegal just managed to get the better of what I believe is a very good Derry side last Sunday, this shows you the size of the job we have on our hands.

“I know people have been lamenting the fact that there have been one-sided matches in the provincial Championships but there was certainly very little between the sides last Sunday and unless I am very much mistaken it will be a case of same again.

“The sudden death element of the Championship adds to the pressure but it can also bring out the best in a team’s character and commitment.”

With Conor McKenna missing out on last weekend’s game because of what joint manager Feargal Logan refers to as “a small injury”, McShane and Darren McCurry look as if they may shoulder the lion’s share of responsibility for getting scores today.

McCurry’s 10-point haul underpinned Tyrone’s win last weekend and he himself is delighted to see McShane back in the selection frame.

“Every man wants to be in the starting line-up but the management can only pick 15 at the end of the day,” states McCurry. “Just the same, the boys that come in from the bench can make a big impact and we saw that last weekend when six lads including Cathal went on and did their bit in getting us over the line.

“This has helped to increase competition for starting places and with people coming back from injury we could have more options.”

It’s safe to say, though, that the return of McShane is viewed as a particular bonus for the Red Hands. He was joint top scorer in the 2019 All-Ireland Championship along with Kerry’s Sean O’Shea and today he looks certain to get another helping of game time as Tyrone bid to get back on the Ulster throne again.

It’s four years since the team took custody of the title and in a football-mad county such as Tyrone this is seen as a famine of sorts.

“Let’s just say there would be a warm welcome for the Anglo-Celt Cup if it were brought back,” smiles personable McShane.


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