AFTER ushering in the New Year in the Far East, Tyrone are propelled straight into competitive action on their return to home shores when they meet the University of Ulster in Omagh this Sunday afternoon in the Dr McKenna Cup.
With many of the touring party just back from Thailand likely to sit out this assignment, aside from a sprinkling of regulars, the Red Hand line up will again consist of numerous rookies and fringe players keen to catch the eye in the early stages of the season.
Tyrone are already well placed to make progress out of Section C having dispatched with Derry in comprehensive fashion prior to Christmas and will be expected to deal with their visiting students in equally emphatic manner at Healy Park.
While much of the attention in the aftermath of that 0-20 to 0-11 opening night success against the Oak Leafers focused on the late cameo display by a certain Darragh Canavan, probably more encouraging from a short-term perspective was the performances of a number of individuals who had previously quit the county fold.
Kyle Coney, Darren McCurry and Conan Grugan each registered on the scoresheet at Celtic Park as the trio got reacclimated to the senior fold in assured fashion and demonstrated what a contribution they could make to the Tyrone cause in 2019 if firing on all cylinders.
One of those impressed by their efforts was experienced defender Aidan McCrory who lined out at centre-half back against Derry. He was pleased to see the talented threesome back in the county colours once again.
“When you look at boys like Kyle, Darren, Conan, they have been in the fold before and are all familiar with the format and how we operate in training. They have been away for a couple of years and have come back with something more to give. That is what we want to see and that is what we need, players coming in and showing they are here to really contribute and make their mark.”
Speaking ahead of the sunshine break to Asia, McCrory expressed his satisfaction at the manner of the nine point win against Derry, particularly given the squad have had little time to gel as a unit.
“ It was satisfying. We hadn’t done a lot of training going into the match. We had just got back together again and there was a lot of young boys in. So we didn’t really know where we stood going into the match. It is always good to get a bit of game time and to get a win in our first game out was nice.
“ We had a couple of trial games before and that was about the height of it. Club football is only finished up a few weeks for most boys so there would have been a bit of a break. We have only just got back into it. Really we have very little done but obviously the work we have been doing over the last number of years is still there and we’re using that as a base to build on in the first few weeks.”
McCrory is one of the veteran foot-soldiers in the Tyrone ranks this weather while at the other end of the scale his Errigal Ciaran club-mate Daragh Canavan was taking his first tentative steps onto the senior inter-county arena. Aidan has every confidence that Canavan (og) has the mentality to cope and was impressed with his display against Derry, as well as that of some of the other young guns.
“He’s his own man, a good footballer and well capable for it. Young Matthew Murnaghan came on as well and he’s still at school. They are two level-headed young lads who have got long careers ahead of them and hopefully they will fit in as we move along.
“ But all the new boys are going to put pressure on themselves to perform.
“They are all good enough footballers and they know they are here because they are good enough. They have to show that and they will be given game time to do that. All you can do is advise them to continue doing what has got them the call up to begin with.”
FULL PREVIEW IN TODAY’S ULSTER HERALD